Causal Inference in the Time of Covid-19

Larry Wasserman – Carnegie Mellon University


I will discuss our recent work on developing causal models for estimating the effect of social mobility on deaths from Covid-19. We propose a marginal structural model motivated by a basic epidemic model. We estimate the counterfactual time series of deaths under interventions on mobility. We conduct several types of sensitivity analyses. We find that the data support the idea that reduced mobility causes reduced deaths, but the conclusion comes with caveats. There is evidence of sensitivity to model misspecification and unmeasured confounding which implies that the size of the causal effect needs to be interpreted with caution. While there is little doubt the effect is real, our work highlights the challenges in drawing causal inferences from pandemic data.

This is joint work with Matteo Bonvini, Edward Kennedy and Valerie Ventura.


Larry Wasserman is the UPMC Professor in the Department of Statistics and Data Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He also has an appointment in the Machine Learning Department and is a member of the Delphi Epidemic Research group at Carnegie Mellon University.