Bowling Alone or Masking Together? The Role of Social Capital in Excess Death Rates from COVID19
38 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2020
Date Written: December 7, 2020
Background: Much attention on the spread and impact of the ongoing pandemic has focused on institutional factors such as government capacity along with population level characteristics such as race, income and age. This paper draws on a growing body of evidence that bonding, bridging, and linking social capital - the horizontal and vertical ties that bind societies together - impact public health to explain why some US counties have seen higher (or lower) excess deaths during the COVID19 pandemic than others.
Methods: Drawing on county-level reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since February 2020, we calculated the number of excess deaths per county compared to 2018. Starting with a balanced panel dataset of county observations over time, we used coarsened exact matching to create a smaller but more similar set of communities which differ primarily in terms of social capital.
Findings: Controlling for a number of factors, including mobility, politics and governance, health care quality, and demographic characteristics, we find that both bonding and linking social capital reduce the toll of COVID19 on communities.
Interpretation: Our findings bring with them policy implications for public health officials, local government officials, and civil society organizations. Public health officials and community organizations should prioritize building and maintaining strong social ties and trust in government to help combat the pandemic.
Note: Funding: This project has no funding sources to report.
Declaration of Interests: The authors have no competing interests to declare.
Keywords: COVID19, disaster; social capital, excess deaths, coarsened exact matching, policy
JEL Classification: P1, P4, Z18, D7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation