Working Papers

Compliance with Social Distancing: Theory and Empirical Evidence from Ontario during COVID-19

Anastasios Papanastasiou, Bradley J. Ruffle, Angela L. Zheng

We study the factors associated with compliance with social-distancing regulations using a unique dataset on the behaviour of Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic. To start, we build a simple theoretical model of social distancing in order to understand how some individual and community-level factors influence compliance. We test our model's predictions by designing and conducting a survey on Ontarians in which we elicit their degree of compliance with current distancing regulations as well as proposed regulations that impose different fine levels on violators or grant wage subsidies to encourage staying at home. In line with the model's predictions, we show that variables related to one's risk of infection (e.g., health status, age, necessity of working outside the home, regional COVID-19 cases) are significant predictors of compliance as are gender, political beliefs, risk and time preferences. Furthermore, we demonstrate that fines and wage subsidies can be powerful policy tools for promoting full compliance with regulations.

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Paper Keywords

COVID-19, physical distancing, non-compliance fines, wage subsidies, risk of infection