Long Social Distancing
Many working-age Americans plan to continue some forms of social distancing after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. We uncover this long social distancing phenomenon in our monthly Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes. It is stronger among older persons, the less educated, and those who live with or care for persons at high risk from infectious diseases. Regression models fit to individual-level data suggest that social distancing lowered labor force participation by 2.4 percentage points in 2022, 1.2 points on an earnings-weighted basis. These effects are highly concentrated among persons with long COVID experiences or daily interactions with at-risk persons. When combined with simple equilibrium models, our results imply that the participation drag reduced U.S. output by $205 billion in 2022, shrank the college wage premium by 2.1 percentage points, and modestly steepened the cross-sectional age-wage profile. The social-distancing drag on participation diminished by an estimated 1.6 percentage points from February 2022 to April 2023. Drawing on self-assessed causal effects in a separate analysis, infection worries lowered participation by an estimated one percentage point as of late 2022.
We thank the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Stanford University, Chicago Booth School of Business, Asociación Mexicana de Cultura A.C., Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Toulouse Network for Information Technology and the MIT Mobility Initiative for funding to conduct the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes. Katharine Abraham, Marianne Bertrand, Mark Bils, Robert Hall, Francisco Perez-Gonzalez, Adrian Rubli, and seminar and conference participants at ITAM, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office Panel of Economic Advisers, and the NBER Conference on Wage Dynamics in the 21st Century provided many helpful comments. A special thanks to Abraham and Bertrand for detailed remarks on previous drafts. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Many Americans plan to continue social distancing even after the COVID pandemic ends, according to data from the Survey of Working...
Jose Maria Barrero & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2023. "Long Social Distancing," Journal of Labor Economics, vol 41(S1), pages S129-S172.