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Rugged Individualism and Collective (In)action During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Samuel Bazzi, Martin Fiszbein () and Mesay Gebresilasse
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Martin Fiszbein: Boston University

No dp-351, Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series from Boston University - Department of Economics

Abstract: Rugged individualism—the combination of individualism and anti-statism—is a prominent feature of American culture with deep roots in the country’s history of frontier settlement. Today, rugged individualism is more prevalent in counties with greater total frontier experience (TFE) during the era of westward expansion. While individualism may be conducive to innovation, it can also under- mine collective action, with potentially adverse social consequences. We show that America’s frontier culture hampered the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Across U.S. counties, greater TFE is asso- ciated with less social distancing and mask use as well as weaker local government effort to control the virus. We argue that frontier culture lies at the root of several more proximate explanations for the weak collective response to public health risks, including a lack of civic duty, partisanship, and distrust in science.

Keywords: Individualism; American Frontier; Social Distancing; COVID-19 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H12 H23 H75 I12 I18 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 27 pages
Date: 2020-08
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-soc
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http://www.bu.edu/econ/files/2020/08/BFG_Individualism_COVID.pdf

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Working Paper: Rugged Individualism and Collective (In)action During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2020) Downloads
Working Paper: Rugged Individualism and Collective (In)action During the COVID-19 Pandemic (2020) Downloads
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