How U.S. Travel Restrictions on China Affected the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States

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Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump imposed travel restrictions on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to slow its spread to the United States. We use the synthetic control method (SCM) under sixteen different specifications to see whether the travel restrictions slowed the domestic spread of COVID-19. The travel restrictions had no effect on the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. Regardless of the intervention date or how the spread of COVID-19 is measured, we find that the travel restrictions did not delay the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United States.

Alex Nowrasteh and Andrew C. Forrester

Alex Nowrasteh is the director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Andrew C. Forrester is a research associate at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.