Masks save lives and livelihoods

Sheena McFarland, David Eccles School of Business
November 24, 2020

Masks save lives and livelihoods

Statewide mask requirements not only reduce the transmission of COVID-19, but they also spur more economic activity, while countywide mask requirements actually depress economic activity, according to researchers at the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis.

The thing that really pops out,” said lead research Nathan Seegert, assistant professor of finance at the Eccles School, “is that statewide mask mandates are much more effective at both saving lives and livelihoods.”

The statewide mask requirements signal that safety measures are being taken seriously, and that boosts consumer confidence.

“If people feel safe, they’re going to go out and spend more,” Seegert said.

The study showed that the positive effects of the statewide mask requirements were seen immediately after they were enacted and up to two months afterward. The economic impact of statewide mask requirements was directly measured, showing an average of about $24 more spent per person per month, which adds up to millions of dollars per month in increased sales.

In addition to Seegert, the research was conducted by Mac Gaulin, assistant professor of Accounting, Mu-Jeung Yang, visiting assistant professor of finance, and Francisco Navarro-Sanchez, a finance doctoral candidate.

The research findings were announced at a press conference on Monday, Nov. 23 with Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business, and Natalie Gochnour, assistant dean at the Eccles School and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Randall addressed the protests happening in Utah around the country against mask requirements.

We’re all facing a set of tradeoffs here. If you choose to not wear masks, you’re causing the confidence of your community to decrease, which means you will see reduced economic activity,” Randall said. “If we want to push the boundary, meaning we want to have better health and a better economy during this really critical time, we really should wear masks.”

Randall pointed out the connection between health and the economy.

“At the core of this relationship is mask-wearing and consumer confidence,” Randall said.

Gochnour said that Utah’s economy is performing much better than the U.S. economy, and the unemployment rate is much lower in the Beehive State compared to the U.S. But she warned that rising case counts increase safety fears, which decreases consumer confidence and leads to people shopping less.

Wearing a mask “is part of controlling our destiny” by increasing economic confidence so “we can get back on our feet faster.”

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