Historical Rice Farming Explains Faster Mask Use during Early Days of China’s COVID-19 Outbreak

English, A. S., Talhelm, T., Tong, R., Li, X., & Su, Y. (2022). Historical rice farming explains faster mask use during early days of China’s COVID-19 outbreak. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 3, 100034. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cresp.2022.100034

11 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2022

See all articles by Alexander English

Alexander English

Shanghai International Studies University

Thomas Talhelm

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Rongtian Tong

University of Washington

Xiaoyuan Li

Shanghai International Studies University

Yan Su

Shanghai International Studies University

Date Written: February 1, 2022

Abstract

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, we observed mask use in public among 1,330 people across China. People in regions with a history of farming rice wore masks more often than people in wheat regions. Cultural differences persisted after taking into account objective risk factors such as local COVID cases. The differences fit with the emerging theory that rice farming’s labor and irrigation demands made societies more interdependent, with tighter social norms. Cultural differences were strongest in the ambiguous, early days of the pandemic, then shrank as masks became nearly universal (94%). Separate survey and internet search data replicated this pattern. Although strong cultural differences lasted only a few days, research suggests that acting just a few days earlier can reduce deaths substantially.

Keywords: China, coronavirus, COVID-19, mask use, norm tightness, rice farming

Suggested Citation

English, Alexander and Talhelm, Thomas and Tong, Rongtian and Li, Xiaoyuan and Su, Yan, Historical Rice Farming Explains Faster Mask Use during Early Days of China’s COVID-19 Outbreak (February 1, 2022). English, A. S., Talhelm, T., Tong, R., Li, X., & Su, Y. (2022). Historical rice farming explains faster mask use during early days of China’s COVID-19 outbreak. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 3, 100034. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cresp.2022.100034, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4033461

Alexander English

Shanghai International Studies University ( email )

1550 Wen Xiang Rd.
Songjiang District
Shanghai, Shanghai 201620
China

Thomas Talhelm (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.chicagobooth.edu/faculty/directory/t/thomas-talhelm

Rongtian Tong

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Xiaoyuan Li

Shanghai International Studies University ( email )

1550 Weniang Road
Songjiang District
Shanghai, Shanghai
China

Yan Su

Shanghai International Studies University ( email )

1550 Weniang Road
Songjiang District
Shanghai, Shanghai
China

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

Paper statistics

Downloads
47
Abstract Views
404
PlumX Metrics