Francesca Borgonovi, Elodie Andrieu, S V Subramanian, 22 July 2020

Areas with high levels of social capital may have been especially at risk during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic due to high levels of social interaction. At the same time, norms of trust and reciprocity could have contributed to reducing the health impact of the pandemic. Using data from US counties on COVID-19 cases and deaths, this column shows that disease spread was faster the higher the social capital in a community. However, case fatality rates between January and May 2020 were lower in communities with higher levels of social capital. As case numbers in the US start to rise following the relaxation of social distancing regulations, social capital may become an important social determinant of health.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Sebastian Seitz, Sebastian Siegloch, Michaela Slotwinski, Nils Wehrhöfer, 18 June 2020

In the absence of viable medical responses to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers have appealed to the social responsibility of their citizens to comply with social distancing rules. This column explores how regional differences in social capital can affect the spread of Covid-19, focusing on seven European countries. The results suggest that areas with high social capital registered between 12% and 32% fewer Covid-19 cases from mid-March until mid-May. A case study of Italy validates the independent role of social capital, showing a consistent reduction in excess deaths and documenting a reduction in mobility prior to the lockdown as a mediating channel.

Francesca Borgonovi, Elodie Andrieu, 10 June 2020

Reducing social contacts can slow the spread of COVID-19. This column examines mobility patterns across US counties between mid-February and mid-May 2020. It finds that reductions in mobility differed across counties, and that community-level social capital can explain the geographic variations in mobility trends. Individuals reduced mobility earlier and to a higher degree in counties with high levels of social capital. Many counties, particularly in the Southeast US, may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, matching low levels of social capital with high rates of chronic disease.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 19 February 2020

Diane Coyle, 07 October 2019

Marco Casari, Andrea Ichino, Moti Michaeli, Maria De Paola, Ginevra Marandola, Vincenzo Scoppa, 05 February 2019

Although differences in social capital have been linked to a variety of outcomes, we know little about why it varies in the first place. Using experimental data from high schools in the north and south of Italy, this column argues that migration is one possible explanation. It finds that civic students in the south are more likely to emigrate when the local share of civic peers is either low or high compared to when it takes an intermediate value, while the opposite happens for uncivic students. Migration thus causes a ‘civicness drain’. 

John Helliwell, 06 September 2016

Discussions about inequality tend to focus on the distribution of income and wealth. This column argues for a shift in focus towards another source of inequality – subjective wellbeing. Wellbeing inequality has grown significantly for the world as a whole and in eight of the ten global regions. One way to address this inequality is to increase social trust.

Eleonora Patacchini, Pierre Picard, Yves Zenou, 20 July 2015

Little is known about how social interactions are affected by geographical distance. This column argues that students tend to interact more with those who are highly central in the network of social contacts, and who are geographically closer. Geographical distance is then a hinder to social interactions. 

Maxim Ananyev, Sergei Guriev, 08 February 2015

The negative effects of recessions are not limited to consumption. Among others, they could also be harmful to preferences and values. This column uses recent evidence from Russia to argue that recessions can result in a sizeable decrease in interpersonal trust. This effect is transient in places where the fall in trust is small. In these regions, trust snaps back to pre-crisis levels as GDP recovers. In the places where fall in trust is large, the effect is persistent. Even after a recovery, trust remains 10 percentage points below the pre-crisis level.

Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, Marc Sangnier, 17 July 2014

It is commonly argued that the persistence of large welfare states in Scandinavian countries is due to the trustworthiness of their citizens. This column shows that the relationship between trust and the size of the welfare state is twin peaked. Untrustworthy individuals support generous welfare states because they expect to benefit without bearing the costs, whereas civic-minded individuals only support generous welfare states when surrounded by people they trust.

Yves Zenou, Jackline Wahba, 19 August 2012

Are return migrants more likely to become entrepreneurs than non-migrants? This column, using data from Egypt, argues that although migrants lose their social networks while they are overseas, the savings and human capital accumulation that they acquire abroad more than compensate for this loss. This makes return migrants more likely to start businesses.

Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc, Andrei Shleifer, 24 October 2011

Can trust be taught in the classroom? The authors of CEPR DP8625 present evidence that progressive or 'horizontal' teaching methods can help children develop beliefs that reinforce social capital, with broad benefits for society and the economy overall.

Martin Halla, Franz Hackl, Gerald Pruckner, 21 February 2009

Why do individuals volunteer? This seemingly personal question is not fully explained by individual characteristics. This column examines the state’s capability to affect individuals' decisions to volunteer. Macroeconomic stability increases volunteering, but higher confidence in government and democratisation reduce participation.

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