Did the Covid lockdowns save lives? Statistics can help answer the question.

In April, free-market economists Phil Kerpen, Stephen Moore, and Casey B. Mulligan published a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “A Final Report Card on the States’ Response to COVID-19.” Their report considered three variables for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.: health outcomes (measured by adjusted mortality), economic performance throughout the pandemic (measured by unemployment and GDP), and the pandemic effect on education (measured by the percentage of cumulative in-person instruction). The authors investigated the relationships among the three variables using simple linear regression, a tool to summarize and study relationships between two continuous variables. This method yields a correlation coefficient that rates both the strength and the direction of the relationship between the two variables.

The results: locked-down economies did not have better health outcomes, open schools were slightly negatively correlated with health outcomes, and the lockdown of schools and economies were highly correlated.

Since the underlying data are available, I ran my own analysis, and the results were largely the same. Indeed, the relationship between health outcomes and economic effects was statistically insignificant. So, too, was the relationship between health outcomes and open schools. Thus, one cannot conclude that economic lockdowns or school closures were associated with saving lives during the pandemic. A significant relationship existed between states that locked down the economy and closed schools, which means that governments that were willing to lock down businesses also sent students home. Ultimately, whether a state or district locked down the economy or closed down schools hardly predicted the health of those that live there.

In short, lockdowns hurt the economy, impeded education, and harmed the development of children. Empirical evidence shows these policies to have been unwise. The next time government officials seek to destroy life and livelihood in the name of safety, we should bear these findings in mind.

Photo by Peter Titmuss/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


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