Date of Completion


Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science (POLS)

First Advisor

Richard Fox

Second Advisor

Feryal Cherif


The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted debate about what factors cause wide variations in mortality and infection rates across the United States and raised questions about what can be done to limit the spread of future outbreaks. In the comparative international politics literature, there are four explanations that determine how well a country can contain outbreaks: leadership, state capacity, demographics, and state culture. Currently, there are no studies that show a comprehensive evaluation of what has caused variations in mortality rate among the fifty states. This study aims to examine state variation among the 50 states in the U.S. and its influence on Covid-19 infection and mortality rate. The study will utilize a mixed-method approach to determine which factors have the most impact on mortality and infection rate. Using a multivariate and case study analysis, I aim to show how the four explanations predicted the pandemic case and death rates. In the findings of this study, I found that several factors, including Republican party control, urbanization, and race, predicted a state’s Covid-19 outcomes. The purpose of this study is to urge states to repair weaknesses in pandemic response plans, address structural discrimination within the healthcare system, and facilitate national cooperation that will better equip states with the ability to contain an outbreak.