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Anti-social behaviour and economic decision-making: panel experimental evidence in the wake of COVID-19

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Lohmann, P 
Gsottbauer, E 
Jing, Y 


We systematically examine the acute impact of exposure to a public health crisis on anti-social behaviour and economic decision-making using unique experimental panel data from China, collected just before the outbreak of COVID-19 and immediately after the first wave was overcome. Exploiting plausibly exogenous geographical variation in virus exposure coupled with a dataset of longitudinal experiments, we show that participants who were more intensely exposed to the virus outbreak became more antisocial than those with lower exposure, while other aspects of economic and social preferences remain largely stable. The finding is robust to multiple hypothesis testing and a similar, yet less pronounced pattern emerges when using alternative measures of virus exposure, reflecting societal concern and sentiment, constructed using social media data. The anti-social response is particularly pronounced for individuals who experienced an increase in depression or negative affect, which highlights the important role of psychological health as a potential mechanism through which the virus outbreak affected behaviour.



Anti-social behaviour, Coronavirus, Natural experiment, Panel data, Risk preferences, Social media data, Time preferences

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Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

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ESRC (1801783)
The following department provided financial and in-kind assistance: - Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, UK - Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, UK, - School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University, P.R. China - Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck, Austria