The Impact of Social Capital on Individual Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from Social Distancing

39 Pages Posted: 26 May 2020 Last revised: 15 Jun 2020

See all articles by John (Jianqiu) Bai

John (Jianqiu) Bai

Northeastern University - D'Amore-McKim School of Business

Shuili Du

University of New Hampshire

Wang Jin

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Chi Wan

University of Massachusetts Boston - Department of Accounting and Finance

Date Written: June 14, 2020

Abstract

This paper employs the theoretical lens of social capital to examine social distancing behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. By exploiting daily mobile GPS location data, we provide strong evidence for the diverse effects of the two constituents of social capital, civic norms and social networks, on social distancing. While civic norms have a positive effect, social networks have a negative impact on social distancing as measured by time spent at home. These results are consistent with a nuanced view of social capital: civic norms facilitate cooperation and self-sacrifice for the common good, whereas social networks increase individual embeddedness and hence inertia in maintaining social interactions, resulting in opposite effects on social distancing. Our results contribute to the research at the intersection of social capital and individual ethical behavior and provide valuable insights for policy makers and businesses in dealing with a global pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; Stay at Home; Social Distancing; Civic Norms; Social Capital; Social Networks

JEL Classification: A14, G41, K42

Suggested Citation

Bai, John (Jianqiu) and Du, Shuili and Jin, Wang and Wan, Chi, The Impact of Social Capital on Individual Responses to COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence from Social Distancing (June 14, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3609001 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3609001

John (Jianqiu) Bai (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - D'Amore-McKim School of Business ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Shuili Du

University of New Hampshire ( email )

15 College Road
Durham, NH 03824
United States

Wang Jin

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Chi Wan

University of Massachusetts Boston - Department of Accounting and Finance ( email )

Boston, MA 02125
United States

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