The Role of International Migration, Domestic Migration, and Short-term Travel in the Timing of COVID-19’s Arrival: Evidence from County-level Data in the United States

Hiroaki Matsuura, Shoin University

On April 22, President Trump signed a new executive order limiting all immigration and tourism to the United States for 60 days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the question remains over the role immigration and tourism has played on the introduction and spread of COVID-19. This paper examines the role of international migration, domestic migration, and short-term travel in the timing of COVID-19’s arrival across 3,142 different counties in the United States. COVID-19 is still in the process of spreading throughout the United States, but it has already reached 90.1 percent of counties as of May 1st. Using the Cox proportional hazards regression, I find that counties with more international migrants, either measured by flow or stock, are more likely to experience earlier arrival of the COVID-19 infection, even after controlling for domestic migration, tourism-related business sales, and other socio-economic variables. Although earlier Presidential proclamations had already blocked entry of non-U.S. citizens from China, Iran, Schengen countries in Europe, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, no evidence has been found to suggest that these travel restrictions delayed the arrival of COVID-19 in counties with a higher proportion of people born in these countries.

Keywords: COVID-19, International migration, Internal migration

See extended abstract.

  Presented in Session 48. Migration, Space and Environment