U.S. counties with more social capital have fewer COVID-19 infections and deaths - perhaps because these communities have greater concern for the health of others, researchers say.
The paper, titled "How social capital helps communities weather the COVID-19 pandemic," investigates the role of social capital as a mediating factor for the spread of the virus. Because social capital is associated with greater trust and relationships within a community, it could endow individuals with a greater concern for others, thereby leading to more hygienic practices and social distancing. Using data for over 2,700 U.S. counties, we investigate how social capital explains the level and growth rate of infections.
The researchers found that moving a county from the 25th to the 75th percentile of the distribution of social capital would lead to a 18% and 5.7% decline in the cumulative number of infections and deaths, as well as suggestive evidence of a lower spread of the virus. They say their results are robust to many demographic characteristics, controls, and alternative measures of social capital.
Reference: Makridis CA, Wu C (2021) How social capital helps communities weather the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0245135. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245135. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0245135