December 2020

IZA DP No. 13995: Stigma and Misconceptions in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Field Experiment in India

A hidden cost of the COVID-19 pandemic is the stigma associated with the disease for those infected and groups that are considered as more likely to be infected. This paper examines whether the provision of accurate and focused information about COVID-19 from a reliable source can reduce stigmatization. We carry out a randomized field experiment in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, in which we provide an information brief about COVID-19 by phone to a random subsample of participants to address stigma and misconceptions. We find that the information brief decreases stigmatization of COVID-19 patients and certain groups such as religious minorities, lower-caste groups, and frontline workers (healthcare, police), and reduces the belief that infection cases are more prevalent among certain marginalized social and economic groups (Muslims, low caste, rural-poor population). We provide suggestive evidence that improved knowledge about the prevention and transmission of COVID-19 and reduced stress about the disease are important channels for these effects.