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

26 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020 Last revised: 15 May 2020

See all articles by Christos Makridis

Christos Makridis

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Cary Wu

York University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 4, 2020

Abstract

Experiences with recent outbreaks, such as SARS in 2003 and Ebola in 2014, suggest that they are handled substantially better in places with better governance. 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. Using data for over 2,700 US counties, we investigate how social capital explains the level and growth rate of infections. We find 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). Our results are robust to many demographic characteristics, controls, and alternative measures of social capital.

Keywords: COVID-19, public health, social capital, social distancing, trust

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 (May 4, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3592180 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3592180

Christos Makridis (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Cary Wu

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
117
Abstract Views
856
rank
197,768
PlumX Metrics