Science Skepticism Reduced Compliance with COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Policies in the United States

35 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020 Last revised: 28 Sep 2021

See all articles by Adam Brzezinski

Adam Brzezinski

University of Oxford

Valentin Kecht

Bocconi University

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Date Written: September 27, 2021

Abstract

Physical distancing reduces transmission risks and slows the spread of COVID-19. Yet compliance with shelter-in-place policies issued by local and regional governments in the United States was uneven and may have been influenced by science skepticism and attitudes towards topics of scientific consensus. Using county-day measures of physical distancing derived from cellphone location data, we demonstrate that the proportion of people who stayed at home after shelter-in-place policies went into effect in March and April 2020 in the United States was significantly lower in counties with a high concentration of science skeptics. These results are robust to controlling for other potential drivers of differential physical distancing, such as political partisanship, income, education and COVID severity. Our findings suggest public health interventions that take local attitudes toward science into account in their messaging may be more effective.

Keywords: COVID-19, physical distancing, belief in science, political partisanship

JEL Classification: I12, I18, H12, H75, D04

Suggested Citation

Brzezinski, Adam and Kecht, Valentin and Van Dijcke, David and Wright, Austin L., Science Skepticism Reduced Compliance with COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Policies in the United States (September 27, 2021). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-56, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3587990 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3587990

Adam Brzezinski

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Valentin Kecht

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ( email )

2350 Hayward Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1307 E 60th St
Chicago, IL IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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