Determinants of the community mobility during the COVID-19 epidemic: The role of government regulations and information

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Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization


This paper studies the dynamics of human mobility during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in countries around the world. The main goal of the analysis is to empirically separate voluntary reductions in mobility driven by the information about the location-specific pandemic trends from the effects of the government-imposed social distancing mandates. Google human mobility dataset is used to track the dynamics of mobility across a wide range of categories (e.g., workplace, retail and recreational activities, etc.), while information on country-specific counts of COVID-19 cases and deaths is used as a proxy for the information about the spread of the pandemic available to the population. A detailed index of stringency of the government-imposed social distancing policies in around 100 countries is used as a measure of government response. We find that human mobility does respond in a significant way to the information about the spread of the pandemic. This channel can explain about 15 percentage points of the overall reduction in mobility across the affected countries. At the same time, our results imply that government-imposed policies account for the majority of the reduction in the mobility observed during this period.

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