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COVID-19 and Social Distancing in the Absence of Legal Enforcement: Survey Evidence from Japan

Masahiro Shoji (), Sususmu Cato (), Takashi Iida, Kenji Ishida, Asei Ito and Kenneth McElwain

MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany

Abstract: Do people keep social distance to mitigate the infection risk of COVID-19, even without aggressive policy interventions? The Japanese government did not restrict individuals’ activities despite the early confirmation of infections, and as a result, economic damages were limited in the initial stage of infection spread. Exploiting these features, we examine the association between the subsequent increase in infections and voluntary social-distancing behavior. Using unique monthly panel survey data, we find that the increase in risk is associated with the likelihood of social-distancing behavior. However, those with lower educational attainment are less responsive, implying their higher exposure to infections. We provide evidence that this can be attributed to their underestimation of infection risk, while we cannot fully rule out the roles of income opportunity costs and poor information access. These results suggest the utility of interventions incorporating nudges to raise risk perception, as well as financial support for low-income households.

Keywords: COVID-19; pandemic; social distancing; risk perception; nudge (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I12 I14 I18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-05-28
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hea and nep-soc
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Working Paper: COVID-19 and Social Distancing in the Absence of Legal Enforcement: Survey Evidence from Japan (2020) Downloads
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