The debate over mask requirements continues to rage on in the U.S., but a new study shows that enforcing a statewide mask mandate not only saves lives, it also saves a state’s economy.
Researchers at the Marriner S. Eccles Institute for Economics and Quantitative Analysis found that statewide mask requirements not only reduce the transmission of COVID-19, but they also spur more economic activity. Interestingly enough, countywide mask requirements actually depress economic activity.
“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.
Saving lives and the economy
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.
Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business, 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.”
Arguing against mask mandates
Not everyone agrees.
Jared Scoggan, operations manager at the Salt Lake City motorcycle repair shop Adrenaline Service & Dyno Tune, told The Salt Lake Tribune that “it is not our job to force people into putting stuff on their face.” Many people who have opposed wearing a face mask look at it as their right to choose to wear one.
Health and economic outcomes are linked
Randall pointed out the connection between health and the economy.
“At the core of this relationship is mask-wearing and consumer confidence,” Randall said.
Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and assistant dean at the Eccles School, 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.”
To read the full study and to learn more, visit Marriner.Eccles.Utah.edu.