Belief in Science Influences Physical Distancing in Response to COVID-19 Lockdown Policies

17 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020

See all articles by Adam Brzezinski

Adam Brzezinski

University of Oxford

Valentin Kecht

Bocconi University

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Oxford - Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, Students

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Date Written: April 30, 2020

Abstract

Physical distancing reduces transmission risks and slows the spread of COVID-19. Local and regional governments in the United States have issued shelter-in-place policies to mandate physical distancing. Yet compliance with these policies is uneven and may be influenced by beliefs about science and topics of scientific consensus. We theorize that individuals skeptical about the human causes of climate change are less likely to comply with physical distancing orders. Using county-day measures of physical distancing derived from cellphone location data, we demonstrate that the proportion of people who stay at home after lockdown policies go into effect is significantly lower in counties with a high concentration of climate change skeptics. These results are consistent when we study how belief in science influences physical distancing across as well as within Democratic and Republican counties. Our findings suggest public health interventions and messaging about risks associated with COVID-19 that take into account local attitudes towards science may be more effective.

Keywords: COVID-19, physical distancing, belief in science, political partisanship

JEL Classification: I12, I18, H12, H75, D04

Suggested Citation

Brzezinski, Adam and Kecht, Valentin and Van Dijcke, David and Wright, Austin L., Belief in Science Influences Physical Distancing in Response to COVID-19 Lockdown Policies (April 30, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-56, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3587990 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3587990

Adam Brzezinski

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Valentin Kecht

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ( email )

2350 Hayward Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

University of Oxford - Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, Students ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.inet.ox.ac.uk/people/david-van-dijcke/

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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