Misinformation During a Pandemic

114 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020

See all articles by Leonardo Bursztyn

Leonardo Bursztyn

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Aakaash Rao

Harvard University, Department of Economics

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

Media outlets often present diverging, even conflicting, perspectives on reality — not only informing, but potentially misinforming audiences. We study the extent to which misinformation broadcast on mass media at the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic influenced health outcomes. We first document large differences in content between the two most popular cable news shows in the US, both on the same network, and in the adoption of preventative behaviors among viewers of these shows. Through both a selection-on-observables strategy and an instrumental variable approach, we find that areas with greater exposure to the show downplaying the threat of COVID-19 experienced a greater number of cases and deaths. We assess magnitudes through an epidemiological model highlighting the role of externalities and provide evidence that contemporaneous information exposure is a key underlying mechanism.

Suggested Citation

Bursztyn, Leonardo and Rao, Aakaash and Roth, Christopher and Yanagizawa-Drott, David, Misinformation During a Pandemic (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27417, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3632644

Leonardo Bursztyn (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 E. 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Aakaash Rao

Harvard University, Department of Economics ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138

HOME PAGE: http://aakaashrao.github.io

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

David Yanagizawa-Drott

University of Zurich ( email )

Schönberggasse 1
Zürich, MA ZH 8001
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://Econ.uzh.ch

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