Whether or not they have realized what they were doing, the political leaders of several states have been conducting a scientific experiment. Their implied hypothesis is that extended draconian restrictions on the activities of the people in their states would result in fewer deaths from the Wuhan virus pandemic. Simultaneously several other states took the opposite approach to managing the pandemic, effectively providing a control group for the restrictive state experiment. We now have data comparing the results of the two approaches. Has the restrictive state hypothesis been falsified?
Here’s a chart of the relative performance of the states plowing relative levels of restriction versus death rate. A higher number on the death rate axis corresponds to a higher death rate. A higher number on the restriction axis corresponds to tighter restrictions.Chart Source: Wallethub
While there are more restrictive states among the ten best performing states, restrictive states account for half of the ten worst. Thus, the data do not support the hypothesis that tight restrictions on the public’s activities necessarily will result in relatively lower death rates.
It’s possible that tight restrictions on public activity might be beneficial in some circumstance, but the data also suggest the possibility that many other factors have affected the variation in performance among the states. For example, Hawaii and Vermont have relatively high restrictions, but are their low death rates a result of their relative isolation from the nation’s large population centers or some other factor? Could such relative isolation have a part in Nebraska’s low death rate? Could California’s high poverty rate be affecting its poor performance?
The science isn’t settled on exactly why some states are doing better than others, but it does seem to show that lockdowns and other such measures weren’t and aren’t a magic bullet.
Oh, one more thing …
The average unemployment rate in the the most restrictive states is 7.1% (9% in California). The national rate is 6.7%. The rate in the least restrictive states is 4.7% (3.1 % in Iowa).