Working Paper

The impact of University reopenings on COVID-19 cases in Scotland



Gutierrez Rufrancos H, Moro M & Moore E (2021) The impact of University reopenings on COVID-19 cases in Scotland. Covid Economics: Vetted and Real-time Papers, Issue 80. Centre for Economic Policy Research.

This paper estimates the impact of University reopenings in Scotland in Autumn 2020 on COVID-19 cases in Scottish neighbourhoods. We geolocate all student halls in Scotland, and merge this data with neighbourhood-level case data. We employ a local differences-in- differences strategy and tackle two research questions. First, we ask what was the impact of the start of semester on cases in the student neighbourhoods? Next, we turn our attention to the spillover of cases in the nearby communities to student neighbourhoods. University semester start dates in Scotland are staggered over the month of September, and we deal with this by focusing on each start cluster, as well as implementing the Callaway and Sant’Anna (2020) estimator. We find a substantial and persistent increase in cases in areas containing halls and evidence of persistent spillovers. These effects are linked to the group of Universities that started on 14th September, which include large niversities located in the major urban areas. The cases began to rise on 21st September, with 100 extra cases per 100,000, and peaked a week later with 400 per 100,000, after which they started declining, but persist until the Autumn tightening of coronavirus restrictions bit in November, two months after the restrictions were enacted. Our results invite a re-think of how close contact activities may safely resume.

Covid Economics; University reopenings; Covid cases; Public Health

This is a slightly unusual 'publication'. It has been vetted, thus there has been a referee report on this work, but it has not gone through the full peer review process. Due to the time lag in economics of publishing (avg 5 years to publication), this is a compromise way in which Economists have sought to do real-time research.

Title of seriesCovid Economics: Vetted and Real-time Papers
Number in seriesIssue 80
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People (2)


Dr Hector Gutierrez Rufrancos

Dr Hector Gutierrez Rufrancos

Senior Lecturer, Economics

Professor Mirko Moro

Professor Mirko Moro

Professor, Economics


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