Never Waste a 'Good' Crisis! Priming the Economic Aspect of Crises Fosters Social Capital Build-Up and Prosociality

49 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2021

See all articles by Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap

Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap

University of East Anglia (UEA) - School of Economic and Social Studies

Christel Koop

King's College London

Konstantinos Matakos

King’s College London - Department of Political Economy; Harvard University - Department of Government

Asli Unan

Humboldt University of Berlin

Nina Weber

King's College London

Date Written: May 28, 2021

Abstract

Do crises make people more prosocial? And what role does communication play in promoting such attitudes and behavior? These answers matter for post-crisis economic recovery as social capital has been linked to growth. We leverage the incidence of COVID-19 --a multifaceted global crisis-- and using a representative panel of US residents, surveyed in April and October 2020, we explore how a) pandemic-induced economic and health anxiety map to prosocial inclinations and behavior, and b) whether communication (and what types) can foster social capital formation. We find that individual exposure to the economic and health consequences of the pandemic had no effect on prosocial inclinations and social capital; but perceived economic vulnerability reduced trust in government and respect for authority and increased preferences for redistribution. Yet information about the aggregate economic consequences of Covid-19 fosters social capital build-up (e.g., altruism, giving, patience) and prosocial preferences. In contrast, information about the health costs of the pandemic has the opposite effect; it greatly reduces interpersonal trust. These information effects also map into policy preferences beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Our findings are consistent with cultural accounts on the determinants of Americans' prosocial inclinations and preferences.

Keywords: crisis, information, altruism, trust, prosociality, social capital, economic vulnerability, risk preferences, patience, pandemic

JEL Classification: C90, D64, D83, D84, D91, P16, Z13

Suggested Citation

Hargreaves Heap, Shaun and Koop, Christel and Matakos, Konstantinos and Unan, Asli and Weber, Nina, Never Waste a 'Good' Crisis! Priming the Economic Aspect of Crises Fosters Social Capital Build-Up and Prosociality (May 28, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3859282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3859282

Shaun Hargreaves Heap

University of East Anglia (UEA) - School of Economic and Social Studies ( email )

Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom
+44 (0)1603 593417 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uea.ac.uk/soc/econ/people/hargreavesheap_s.shtml

Christel Koop

King's College London ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Konstantinos Matakos

King’s College London - Department of Political Economy ( email )

Bush House NE
London, London WC2B 4BG
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kostasmatakos/

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Asli Unan (Contact Author)

Humboldt University of Berlin ( email )

Unter den Linden 6
6
Berlin, 10117
Germany

Nina Weber

King's College London ( email )

Strand
London, England WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.ninasophieweber.com/

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