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IPAL Capstone Project

 IPAL Program

Harris School of Public Policy
The University of Chicago
IPAL Capstone Project
Mask Mandates, Economic Activity, and COVID-19 Spread in the United States
In this Capstone Project, you will study how the introduction and roll back of mask mandates
during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted spread in the United States. We will pay careful
attention to the role of economic activity: how do local consumption patterns (online vs.
in-person shopping) influence these patterns? Understanding how mask use and economic
activity influence the number of local cases (and casualties) is a first order global public
policy challenge.
To study this question, you will be part of a large team assembling a database of local
mask mandates. We will then link this data with aggregated, county-day data on spending
patterns and COVID-19 cases (via the NY Times and Johns Hopkins University platforms).
We will use a difference-in-differences and event study research designs. We will follow up
with the code to implement the appropriate regressions.
Once we are done assembling the data and baseline results, we (Professor Wright + Teaching
Fellows team) will begin to compile a working paper. All students that contribute to the
Capstone Project will included as coauthors on the working paper. Students will also be
given an opportunity to edit, revise, and update the working paper.
1. Compile a list of county and state-wide mask mandates. We will use an open source
platform (likely Google Sheets) to build this dataset. The Teaching Fellows will assign
you a list of states (and counties within them) to verify and add to the spreadsheet.
Fields will include: state name, county name, county FIPS code, date mask policy
introduced, date mask policy reversed/nullified, conditions (all public spaces; retail
2. Coordinate a set of readings within your small group. Each student should find five
academic articles on COVID-19 spread, government policies, and mask use. Each pa￾per only needs to discuss one of these topics. Each article should be unique within
the group. Each group should make a bibliography of readings using the APA ar￾ticle/working paper citation format. Please summarize each article in one paragraph
describing: (1) the central research question (what are they studying?); (2) the context
of the study (where is the study taking place?); (3) what type of data is being studied?;
(4) what do the authors find? Your memo assignment should include five paragraphs.
3. Once the mask mandate data has been gathered, make a map with the first date of a
mask mandate requirement. Depending on the level of granularity in the data, we will
use either (1) a county level map or (2) a state level map.
4. Plot the variation in COVID-19 cases by state and day. Each state should be indicated
as a different color.
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