IZA DP No. 13745: Predictors of Social Distancing and Mask-Wearing Behavior: Panel Survey in Seven U.S. States
This paper presents preliminary summary results from a longitudinal study of participants in seven U.S. states during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to standard socio-economic characteristics, we collect data on various economic preference parameters: time, risk, and social preferences, and risk perception biases. We pay special attention to predictors that are both important drivers of social distancing and are potentially malleable and susceptible to policy levers. We note three important findings: (1) demographic characteristics exert the largest influence on social distancing measures and mask-wearing, (2) we show that individual risk perception and cognitive biases exert a critical role in influencing the decision to adopt social distancing measures, (3) we identify important demographic groups that are most susceptible to changing their social distancing behaviors. These findings can help inform the design of policy interventions regarding targeting specific demographic groups, which can help reduce the transmission speed of the COVID-19 virus.