Comparative Experimental Evidence on Compliance with Social Distancing During the Covid-19 Pandemic
30 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 14, 2020
Social distancing is a central public health measure in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but individuals’ compliance cannot be taken for granted. We use a survey experiment to examine the prevalence of non-compliance with social distancing in nine countries and test pre-registered hypotheses about individual-level characteristics associated with less social distancing. Leveraging a list experiment to control for social desirability bias, we find large cross-national variation in adherence to social distancing guidelines. Compliance varies systematically with COVID-19 fatalities and the strictness of lockdown measures. We also find substantial heterogeneity in the role of individual-level predictors. While there is an ideological gap in social distancing in the US and New Zealand, this is not the case in European countries. Taken together, our results suggest caution when trying to model pandemic health policies on other countries’ experiences. Behavioral interventions targeted towards specific demographics that work in one context might fail in another.
Keywords: health policy, compliance, SARS-CoV2, list experiment
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation