Martin Andersen, Johanna Catherine Maclean, Michael F. Pesko, Kosali I. Simon

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 27138
Issued in May 2020
NBER Program(s):AG, HC, HE, LE, LS

Available Formats


We study the effects of the temporary federal paid sick leave mandate that became effective April 1st, 2020 on ‘social distancing,’ as proxied by physical mobility behavior gleaned from cellular devices. The national paid leave policy was implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and provided many private and many public employees, including individuals employed in the gig economy, with up to two weeks of paid leave. We study the early impact of the federal paid sick leave policy using interrupted time series analyses and difference-in-differences methods leveraging pre-FFCRA county-level differences in mobility. Our proxies for the ability to social distance are the share of cellular devices that are located in the workplace eight or more hours per day (‘full-time work’) and leave the home for less than one hour per day (‘at home’) in each county. Our findings suggest that the federal mandate decreased our full-time work proxy and increased our at home proxy. In particular, we find an initial decrease in working full-time of 17.7% and increase in staying home of 7.5%, with effects dissipating within three weeks. Given that up to 47% of employees are covered by the federal mandate, our effect sizes are arguably non-trivial.

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