Stay Home Save Lives: A Machine Learning Approach to Causal Inference to Evaluate Impact of Social Distancing in the US

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Syed Muhammad Ishraque Osman, Nazmus Sakib

Abstract

Although there are few studies done to provide estimations of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, however, there is a need for an actual policy evaluation of the already implemented social distancing measures. In the US context in specific, this is especially instrumental because nearly a dozen US states are considering the reopening of the economy following anti social distancing protests. Using a machine learning based Generalized Synthetic Control Method, considering the US states that adopted early social distancing approaches as the treatment group and the states that adopted social distancing much later as the control group and controlling for state and time fixed effects (to cancel out the selection bias and endogeneity), this paper finds that social distancing is associated with lower COVID-19 infection growth rate (by 192%) when compared to the no policy intervention counterfactual.

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