Joel M. Zinberg et al.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to government interventions into the social and economic structures of our society that were unprecedented in their severity and duration. The fact that different states and localities took different approaches to imposing these measures created an opportunity to determine whether these interventions improved health outcomes, what economic and social side effects the interventions caused, and whether the interventions influenced people’s decisions about where to live.
This paper compares a quantitative measure of government interventions from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker—a systematic collection of information on policy measures that governments have taken to combat COVID-19—to health, economic, and educational outcome measures in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We use the Government Response Index, which is the Oxford researchers’ most comprehensive index.
Our results show that more severe government interventions, as measured by the Oxford index, did not significantly improve health outcomes (age-adjusted and pre-existing-condition adjusted COVID mortality and all-cause excess mortality) in states that imposed them relative to states that imposed less restrictive measures. But the severity of the government response was strongly correlated with worse economic (increased unemployment and decreased GDP) and educational (days of in-person schooling) outcomes and with a worse overall COVID outcomes score that equally weighted the health, economic, and educational outcomes.