Who Manipulates Data During Pandemics? Evidence from Newcomb-Benford Law.
47 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 26 Dec 2020
Date Written: July 25, 2020
We use the Newcomb-Benford law to test if countries have manipulated reported data during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that democratic countries, countries with the higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, higher healthcare expenditures, and better universal healthcare coverage are less likely to deviate from the Newcomb-Benford law. The relationship holds for the cumulative number of reported deaths and total cases but is more pronounced for the death toll. The findings are robust for second-digit tests, for a sub-sample of countries with regional data, and in relation to the previous swine flu (H1N1) 2009–2010 pandemic. The paper further highlights the importance of independent surveillance data verification projects.
Keywords: Newcomb-Benford Law, COVID-19, Democracy Index (EIU), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), data manipulation
JEL Classification: F5, I10, I18, O1, O57, P52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation