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Voluntary adoption of social welfare-enhancing behavior: Mask-wearing in Spain during the COVID-19 outbreak

Joan Barceló and Greg Chih-Hsin Sheen

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 12, 1-17

Abstract: With the spread of COVID-19, more countries now recommend their citizens to wear facemasks in public. The uptake of facemasks, however, remains far from universal in countries where this practice lacks cultural roots. In this paper, we aim to identify the barriers to mask-wearing in Spain, a country with no mask-wearing culture. We conduct one of the first nationally representative surveys (n = 4,000) about this unprecedented public health emergency and identify the profile of citizens who are more resistant to face-masking: young, educated, unconcerned with being infected, and with an introverted personality. Our results further indicate a positive correlation between a social norm of mask-wearing and mask uptake and demonstrate that uptake of facemasks is especially high among the elderly living in localities where mask-wearing behavior is popular. These results are robust when controlling for respondents’ demographics, time spent at home, and occupation fixed effects. Our findings can be useful for policymakers to devise effective programs for improving public compliance.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242764

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