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Variations in Early-Stage Responses to Pandemics: Survey Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic in Japan

Masahiro Shoji (), Susumu Cato, Takashi Iida, Kenji Ishida, Asei Ito and Kenneth Mori McElwain
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Susumu Cato: University of Tokyo
Takashi Iida: University of Tokyo
Kenji Ishida: University of Tokyo
Asei Ito: University of Tokyo
Kenneth Mori McElwain: University of Tokyo

Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, 2022, vol. 6, issue 2, No 2, 235-258

Abstract: Abstract During the initial phase of pandemics, swift behavioral responses by individuals, such as social distancing, can temper the speed and magnitude of further infections. However, individual choices in this period are often made in the absence of reliable knowledge and coordinated policy interventions, producing variation in protective behaviors that cannot be easily deduced from that in later periods. Using unique monthly panel survey data, we examine variations in the association between changes in infections and risky behavior, particularly the frequencies of face-to-face conversations and dining out, between January to March 2020. We find that the increase in confirmed cases is negatively associated with the likelihood of these behaviors. However, high school graduates are less responsive than university graduates. We provide evidence that this can be attributed to their lower perception of infection risk, while we cannot fully rule out the roles of income opportunity costs. These results point to the benefits of interventions incorporating nudges to raise individuals’ risk perceptions during the initial phase of pandemics. We also discuss the potential efficacy of such interventions in later periods of pandemics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pandemic; Social distancing; Risky behavior; Risk perception; I12; I14; I18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1007/s41885-021-00103-5

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