Ties That Bind (and Social Distance): How Social Capital Helps Communities Weather the COVID-19 Pandemic
19 Pages Posted: 6 May 2020
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: Suggested Citation