Who Manipulates Data During Pandemics? Evidence from Newcomb-Benford Law.

47 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2020 Last revised: 26 Dec 2020

See all articles by Vadim S. Balashov

Vadim S. Balashov

Rutgers School of Business-Camden

Yuxing Yan

SUNY at Geneseo - John Wiley Jones School of Business

Xiaodi Zhu

New Jersey City University

Date Written: July 25, 2020

Abstract

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

Balashov, Vadim S. and Yan, Yuxing and Zhu, Xiaodi, Who Manipulates Data During Pandemics? Evidence from Newcomb-Benford Law. (July 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3662462 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3662462

Vadim S. Balashov (Contact Author)

Rutgers School of Business-Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102
United States
856-225-6706 (Phone)

Yuxing Yan

SUNY at Geneseo - John Wiley Jones School of Business ( email )

Geneseo, NY 14454
United States

Xiaodi Zhu

New Jersey City University ( email )

2039 Kennedy Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305-1597
United States

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