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Date: Jun 24, 2020

Social Capital and the Spread of Covid-19: Insights From European Countries | Alina Bartscher et al.

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In May 2020 Alina Bartscher, Sebastian Seitz, Sebastian Siegloch, Michaela Slotwinski and Nils Wehrhöfer published a Discussion Paper in which they explore the role of social capital in the spread of the recent Covid-19 pandemic in an independent analyses for Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

They exploit within-country variation in social capital and Covid-19 cases to show that high-social-capital areas accumulated between 12% and 32% fewer Covid-19 cases per capita from mid-March until mid-May. Using Italy as a case study, they find that high-social-capital areas exhibit lower excess mortality and a decline in mobility. The results have important implications for the design of local containment policies in future waves of the pandemic.
Bartscher et. al. provide evidence that culture and social capital have a considerable impact on the containment on Covid-19 and the number of deaths. Social capital can unfold additional potential in times of (health) crises which call for collective action and socially responsible behavior.

The results have important implications for policymakers. During the current crisis, the findings suggest that low-social-capital areas might need to consider stricter formal policies to contain the virus. However, the recent policy shift in Germany that delegated more responsibility to the country level might be a good way to allow for this regional flexibility, especially with the looming threat of a second outbreak in the fall or winter, according to the authors.
In the longer run, investing in social formation is an important insurance against similar future pandemics. The insights from the study mandate policymakers to invest not only into the health system, but also into social formation to be well-prepared.

Read the Discussion Paper here

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