Home Lockdown, Lockdowns are being lifted the world over in the hope of limiting potentially grave economic consequences. But this could also mean people are even more cautious about stepping out of homes, given the continuing threat of the coronavirus. As a new research paper says, even during the lockdown, Americans were more likely to have stayed home because of that fear, rather than due to stay-at-home orders.
In a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, two economists from the University of Chicago use data on footfalls at around 2.25 million businesses across the United States as a proxy for economic activity. These businesses were in locations with varying restrictions on movement. The data was gathered through customers’ mobile phone records between 1 March 1 and 16 May.
Consumer visits fell by 60 percentage points during the study period, but of that, only seven percentage points can be explained by legal restrictions on movement, the paper finds. The decline in footfalls in areas with stay-at-home orders was just 10% more than in other areas.
The paper also finds that the decline in consumer visits is also driven by rising COVID-19 deaths. Half of the decline in footfalls was found to be in response to local deaths.
The fear of the infection had a greater impact on larger establishments, whose footfalls fell 70%, as against 45% for smaller businesses, the study finds. This could be explained by people avoiding locations where the exposure to infection is higher.
Meanwhile, the paper also finds a significant consumer shift from non-essential businesses such as bars and restaurants to essential ones such as groceries. The analysis shows that the recovery of economic activity was modest even when states lifted lockdown orders.