Ties That Bind (and Social Distance): How Social Capital Helps Communities Weather the COVID-19 Pandemic

19 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Christos Makridis

Christos Makridis

Stanford University; Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Cary Wu

York University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 24, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic represents the largest world-wide shock in at least a decade. Moreover, the spread of the virus has been highly heterogeneous. This paper investigates the role of social capital as a potential mediating factor for the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On one hand, higher social capital could imply greater in-person interaction and risk of contagion. On the other hand, because social capital is associated with greater trust and relationships within a community, it could endow individuals with a greater concern for others, thereby leading to more hygienic practices and social distancing. Our results suggest that moving a county from the 25th to the 75th percentile of the distribution of social capital would lead to a 20% decline in the number of infections, as well as a 0.28 percentage point decline in the growth rate of the virus (nearly 20% of the median growth rate). Moreover, our results are robust to many demographic characteristics, controls, and alternative measures of social capital.

Keywords: COVID-19, expectations, social capital, social distancing

JEL Classification: E71, I12, I18, I31

Suggested Citation

Makridis, Christos and Wu, Cary, Ties That Bind (and Social Distance): How Social Capital Helps Communities Weather the COVID-19 Pandemic (April 24, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3584581 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3584581

Christos Makridis (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Cary Wu

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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