Andrew I. Friedson, Drew McNichols, Joseph J. Sabia, Dhaval Dave

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 26992
Issued in April 2020, Revised in April 2020
NBER Program(s):AG, CH, DEV, HC, HE, LE, LS, PE

This paper was revised on April 29, 2020

Available Formats


On March 19, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 2020, which required all residents of the state of California to shelter in place for all but essential activities such as grocery shopping, retrieving prescriptions from a pharmacy, or caring for relatives. This shelter-in-place order (SIPO), the first such statewide order issued in the United States, was designed to reduce COVID-19 cases and mortality. While the White House Task Force on the Coronavirus has credited the State of California for taking early action to prevent a statewide COVID-19 outbreak, no study has examined its impact. This study is the first to estimate the effect of SIPO adoption on health. Using daily state-level coronavirus data and a synthetic control research design, we find that California’s statewide SIPO reduced COVID-19 cases by 125.5 to 219.7 per 100,000 population by April 20, one month following the order. We further find that California’s SIPO led to as many as 1,661 fewer COVID-19 deaths during this period. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that there were about 400 job losses per life saved during this short-run post-treatment period.

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