The redder the state, the more its residents are allowed — and willing — to move around.
That might be intuitive given the reluctance of many conservatives to wear masks or take vaccines. And it is also borne out in data.
The Dallas Federal Reserve compiles what it calls a mobility and engagement index for individual states. It is based on mobile device information — looking at, for instance, the fraction of devices leaving home in a day, and the fraction taking trips longer than 10 miles. The indexes are then scaled so that zero represents the national average over January and February of 2020 — before the new coronavirus disease hit the U.S. — and -100 for the week ended April 11, 2020.
MarketWatch examined the state data, and then plotted against presidential voting margin in the 2020 election. The correlation is a very strong 0.85 on a scale of -1 to 1. Generally speaking, the more a state voted for former President Donald Trump, the more its residents were moving around, in the week ended March 13.
The most mobile state, using the Dallas Fed data, was Mississippi, where activity was just 3% below where it was before COVID-19 emerged. California was the least mobile, with activity 56% below normal. Nationally, activity was 31% below normal.
Economists are using data like the soon-to-be-discontinued Dallas Fed statistics, as well as similar gauges put out by technology giants Google
to get a feel for how economies are performing.
Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, all but Vermont and New Hampshire have high mobility. Conversely, mobility laggards — including California, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Massachusetts and Connecticut — have some of the highest jobless rates in the country.