Risk Aversion, Guilt, and Pandemic Behavior

36 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2021

See all articles by Trevor Collier

Trevor Collier

University of Dayton

Stephen J. Cotten

University of Houston, Clear Lake

Justin Roush

Xavier University

Date Written: December 1, 2020


We test whether laboratory measures of individual preferences for risk and guilt relate to risk-connected behaviors in a pandemic, such as socializing, dining in at restaurants, and hand washing. We also investigate how guilt and risk aversion relate to the impact of governmental shelter-in-place orders. We utilize a survey administrated to a nationally representative subject pool in the United States in April, 2020 - the month following the declaration of a national state of emergency in response to the global outbreak of a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). We find that higher levels of risk aversion and guilt are associated with risk-reducing behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also find evidence that state and local shelter-in-place orders influenced some behavior, but the response of risk averse and guilty individuals is independent of the timing of local executive orders.

Keywords: COVID, pandemic, risk aversion, inequality aversion, guilt, experiment

JEL Classification: D9, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Collier, Trevor and Cotten, Stephen J. and Roush, Justin, Risk Aversion, Guilt, and Pandemic Behavior (December 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3765499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3765499

Trevor Collier

University of Dayton ( email )

300 College Park
Dayton, OH 45469
United States

Stephen J. Cotten

University of Houston, Clear Lake ( email )

2700 Bay Area Blvd. Box 42
Houston, TX 77058
United States

Justin Roush (Contact Author)

Xavier University ( email )

Cincinnati, OH 45207
United States

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