Socially responsible behaviour plays a major role in the dissemination of COVID-19, as a recent study by ECONtribute member Alina Bartscher and co-authors from the ZEW Mannheim shows. In regions with a higher sense of social responsibility, the virus spreads more slowly and excess mortality is lower than in areas where the common good is less important.
The authors of the study investigated the correlation between social capital and COVID-19 case numbers in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden. Social capital is a common measure of social responsibility. The social capital of a region is measured by voter participation. Voting implies costly effort for the individual, while one’s own vote only marginally influences the election result. Since people still vote out of a sense of civic responsibility, regions with low voter turnout are considered to have low social capital. The researchers confirm their results with data on blood donations as an alternative measure.
“We see that Covid-19 spreads less fast in areas with higher social capital, partly because citizens voluntarily restrict their mobility. A high sense of responsibility therefore leads to a stronger containment of the virus,” explains Alina Bartscher, one of the authors of the study and doctoral candidate at the Bonn Graduate School of Economics and in the ECONtribute Cluster of Excellence. The study results also indicate that policymakers in regions with higher social capital can rely on policies which restrict daily life less.