Social Distancing in America: Understanding Long-term Adherence to COVID-19 Mitigation Recommendations

63 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2020 Last revised: 22 Dec 2020

See all articles by Chris Reinders Folmer

Chris Reinders Folmer

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Megan Brownlee

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Adam Fine

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Malouke Esra Kuiper

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Elke Olthuis

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Emmeke Barbara Kooistra

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Anne Leonore de Bruijn

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Benjamin van Rooij

University of California, Irvine School of Law; University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 24, 2020

Abstract

In the period from May to July, the United States repealed statewide and local lockdown measures, reopened society, and became the global leader in reported infections and deaths from the coronavirus COVID-19. During this timeframe, the country saw some of the largest civil rights protests in United States history, and increasing politicization of the pandemic leading up to the Presidential elections. Throughout these events, social distancing recommendations have remained in force. However, social distancing was no longer the focus of the public health response, and was largely overshadowed by face masks – despite evidence of its effectiveness for reducing virus transmission. This study examines to what extent Americans have continued to adhere to social distancing measures across these developments, and which factors sustained adherence. Our findings, based on three waves of nationally representative and cross-sectional studies conducted in May, June, and July, show that adherence to social distancing measures declined from May to July, as did knowledge of these measures, citizens’ practical capacity to adhere to them, and the social norms for adherence. At the same time, opportunities to violate these measures have increased. However, adherence levels stabilized in July, and support for social distancing measures among Americans has remained high throughout. These findings provide important insight into what motivated Americans to adhere to social distancing measures when distancing ceased to be the focus of the public health response. It thereby identifies important directions through which public health policy could sustain or promote adherence to mitigation measures in the United States.

Keywords: COVID-19, compliance, social distancing, mitigation, America

JEL Classification: L12, L18, K32, K42

Suggested Citation

Reinders Folmer, Chris and Brownlee, Megan and Fine, Adam and Kuiper, Malouke Esra and Olthuis, Elke and Kooistra, Emmeke Barbara and de Bruijn, Anne Leonore and van Rooij, Benjamin and van Rooij, Benjamin, Social Distancing in America: Understanding Long-term Adherence to COVID-19 Mitigation Recommendations (November 24, 2020). Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2020-62, General Subserie Research Paper No. 2020-16, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2020-69, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3736683 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3736683

Chris Reinders Folmer (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Megan Brownlee

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Adam Fine

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice ( email )

411 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85004
United States

Malouke Esra Kuiper

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Elke Olthuis

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Postbus 15654
1001 ND
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 ND
Netherlands

Emmeke Barbara Kooistra

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Anne Leonore De Bruijn

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Benjamin Van Rooij

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

University of Amsterdam - Faculty of Law ( email )

Amsterdam, 1018 WB
Netherlands

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
174
Abstract Views
1,342
rank
233,206
PlumX Metrics