Michael Keane and Timothy Neal
Abstract: We develop an econometric model of consumer panic (or panic buying) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using Google search data on relevant keywords, we construct a daily index of consumer panic for 54 countries from January to late April 2020. We also assemble data on government policy announcements and daily COVID-19 cases for all countries. Our panic index reveals widespread consumer panic in most countries, primarily during March, but with significant variation in the timing and severity of panic between countries. Our model implies that both domestic and world virus transmission contribute significantly to consumer panic. But government policy is also important: Internal movement restrictions - whether announced by domestic or foreign governments - generate substantial short run panic that largely vanishes in a week to ten days. Internal movement early in the pandemic generated more panic than those announced later. In contrast, travel restrictions and stimulus announcements had little impact on consumer panic.
Keywords: Coronavirus, Hoarding, Consumption, Panel Data, Containment Policy