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Rationing social contact during the Covid-19 pandemic: transmission risk and social benefits of US locations

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, some types of stores and gathering places have been shut down while others remain open. The decision to shut down one type of location and leave another open constitutes a judgement about the relative danger and benefits of those locations. Using location data from a large sample of smartphones, nationally representative consumer preference surveys, and government statistics, we measure the relative transmission risk benefit and social cost of closing 30 different location categories in the US. Our categories include types of shops, schools, entertainments, and public spaces. We rank categories by those which should face stricter regulation via dominance across eight dimensions of risk and importance and through composite indexes. We find that from February to March, there were larger declines in visits to locations that our measures imply should be closed first. We hope this analysis will help policymakers decide how to reopen their economies.

Lead investigator:

Seth Benzell

Affiliation:

MIT Institute on the Digital Economy

Primary topic:

Attitudes, media & governance

Region of data collection:

North America

Country of data collection

USA

Status of data collection

Complete

Type of data being collected:

Publicly available

Unit of real-time data collection

Individual

Start date

2/2020

End date

3/2020

Frequency

Daily

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