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Civic Capital and Social Distancing During the Covid-19 Pandemic (WP-20-26)

John Barrios, Efraim Benmelech, Yael Hochberg, Paola Sapienza, and Luigi Zingales

The success of non-pharmaceutical interventions to contain pandemics often depends greatly upon voluntary compliance with government guidelines. What explains variation in voluntary compliance? Using mobile phone and survey data, the researchers show that during the early phases of COVID-19, voluntary social distancing was higher when individuals exhibit a higher sense of civic duty. This is true for U.S. individuals, U.S. counties, and European regions. They also show that after U.S. states began re-opening, social distancing remained more prevalent in high civic capital counties. The authors’ evidence points to the importance of civic capital in designing public policy responses to pandemics.

This paper has been published in the Journal of Public Economics.

John Barrios, Assistant Professor of Accounting, University of Chicago

Efraim Benmelech, Harold L. Stuart Professor of Finance, Northwestern University

Yael Hochberg, Ralph S. O’Connor Professor in Entrepreneurship–Finance, Rice University

Paola Sapienza, Donald C. Clark/HSBC Chair in Consumer Finance and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, University of Chicago

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