Correcting Perceived Social Distancing Norms to Combat Covid-19

45 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2021 Last revised: 15 Oct 2021

See all articles by James Allen IV

James Allen IV

University of Michigan, Department of Economics; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Arlete Mahumane

Beira Operational Research Center (CIOB)

James Riddell

University of Michigan Medical School

Tanya Rosenblat

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information

Dean Yang

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics

Hang Yu

Peking University

Date Written: April 2021

Abstract

Can informing people of high community support for social distancing encourage them to do more of it? In theory, the impact of such an intervention on social distancing is ambiguous, and depends on the relative magnitudes of free-riding and perceived-infectiousness effects. We randomly assigned a treatment providing information on true high rates of community social distancing support. We estimate impacts on social distancing, measured using a combination of self-reports and reports of others. While experts surveyed in advance expected the treatment to increase social distancing, we find that its average effect is close to zero and significantly lower than expert predictions. The treatment’s effect is heterogeneous, as predicted by theory: it decreases social distancing where current COVID-19 cases are low (where free-riding dominates), but increases it where cases are high (where the perceived-infectiousness effect dominates).

Suggested Citation

Allen IV, James and Mahumane, Arlete and Riddell, James and Rosenblat, Tanya and Yang, Dean and Yang, Dean and Yu, Hang, Correcting Perceived Social Distancing Norms to Combat Covid-19 (April 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28651, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3824527

James Allen IV (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Department of Economics ( email )

735 S. State Street
Ann Arbor,, MI 48109

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

735 South State Street, Weill Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Arlete Mahumane

Beira Operational Research Center (CIOB) ( email )

Rua Correia de Brito 1323
Sofala Province
Beira City
Mozambique

James Riddell

University of Michigan Medical School ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

Tanya Rosenblat

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information ( email )

304 West Hall
550 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.tanyarosenblat.org

Dean Yang

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

440 Lorch Hall
611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-764-6158 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.umich.edu/~deanyang/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States

Hang Yu

Peking University ( email )

No. 38 Xueyuan Road
Haidian District
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

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