Prosociality Predicts Health Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 346, 2020

54 Pages Posted: 21 May 2020

See all articles by Pol Campos-Mercade

Pol Campos-Mercade

University of Copenhagen

Armando Meier

University of Basel

Florian Schneider

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Erik Wengström

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 17, 2020

Abstract

Socially responsible behavior is crucial for slowing the spread of infectious diseases. However, economic and epidemiological models of disease transmission abstract from prosocial motivations as a driver of behaviors that impact the health of others. In an incentivized study, we show that a large majority of people are very reluctant to put others at risk for their personal benefit. Moreover, this experimental measure of prosociality predicts health behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, measured in a separate and ostensibly unrelated study with the same people. Prosocial individuals are more likely to follow physical distancing guidelines, stay home when sick, and buy face masks. We also find that prosociality measured two years before the pandemic predicts health behaviors during the pandemic. Our findings indicate that prosociality is a stable, long-term predictor of policy-relevant behaviors, suggesting that the impact of policies on a population may depend on the degree of prosociality.

Keywords: Social preferences, health behavior, externalities, COVID-19

JEL Classification: D01, D91, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Campos-Mercade, Pol and Meier, Armando and Schneider, Florian and Wengström, Erik, Prosociality Predicts Health Behaviors during the COVID-19 Pandemic (May 17, 2020). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 346, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3604094 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3604094

Pol Campos-Mercade (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Nørregade 10
Copenhagen, København DK-1165
Denmark

Armando Meier

University of Basel ( email )

Florian Schneider

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zürich
Switzerland

Erik Wengström

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.ku.dk/wengstrom

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