DP14842 Understanding Spatial Variation in COVID-19 across the United States

Author(s): Klaus Desmet, Romain Wacziarg
Publication Date: June 2020
Date Revised: July 2020
Keyword(s): COVID-19, Determinants, spatial variation, US counties
JEL(s): I18, R1
Programme Areas: Public Economics, International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14842

We analyze the correlates of COVID-19 cases and deaths across US counties. We consider a wide range of correlates - population density, public transportation, age structure, nursing home residents, connectedness to source countries, etc. - finding that these variables are important predictors of variation in disease severity. Many of the effects are persistent - even increasing - through time. We also show that there are fewer deaths and cases in counties where Donald Trump received a high share of the vote in 2016, partly explaining the emerging political divide over lockdown and reopening policies, but that this correlation is reversed when controlling for shares of minority groups. The patterns we identify are meant to improve our understanding of the drivers of the spread of COVID-19, with an eye toward helping policymakers design responses that are sensitive to the specificities of different locations.