Processors and Prisons: Exploring Drivers of COVID-19 Spread in Rural America
Kaitlyn Sims, Jeremy Foltz, and Marin Skidmore
Department of Agricultural & Applied Economics
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Online - https://us.bbcollab.com/guest/a6172b96ab9d434daf6674bf7ec04c8a
12:00 pm-1:15 pm
This paper comprises the first empirical evidence that the presence and capacities of prisons and meat processors are strong correlates of COVID-19 case counts. We merge data locations of federal, state, and local/county prisons with USDA data on meat processors and daily COVID-19 case and death counts. The presence of a state or federal prison in a county corresponds with an up to 14 percentage point increase in the COVID-19 case count. Presence of a meat processor corresponds with up to a 36 percentage point increase in the case count, and with up to a 20 percentage point increase in the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19. We also propose these two facility types are potential instrumental variables for identifying the impact of COVID-19 and related policies (such as lock-down orders) on numerous economic outcomes. Our results suggest that the public health implications of these facilities extend beyond the health of employees and inmates, and that policymakers should explicitly consider the public health concerns posed by these facilities when developing pandemic-response policy.