Civic capital and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic

John M. Barrios, Efraim Benmelech, Yael V. Hochberg, Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Using mobile phone and survey data, we show that during the early phases of COVID-19, voluntary social distancing was greater in areas with higher civic capital and amongst individuals exhibiting a higher sense of civic duty. This effect is robust to including controls for political ideology, income, age, education, and other local-level characteristics. This result is present for U.S. individuals and U.S. counties as well as European regions. Moreover, we show that after U.S. states began re-opening, high civic capital counties maintained a more sustained level of social distancing, while low civic capital counties did not. Finally, we show that U.S. individuals report a higher tendency to use protective face masks in high civic capital counties. Our evidence points to the importance of considering the level of civic capital in designing public policies not only in response to pandemics, but also more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104310
JournalJournal of Public Economics
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Civic capital
  • Compliance
  • Social capital
  • Social distancing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Finance


Dive into the research topics of 'Civic capital and social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this