New study finds higher social capital and trust leads to better COVID-19 response in some U.S. states

COVID outbreak image
COVID outbreak image

In the United States, those states that are responding more quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 crisis also seem to have higher levels of social capital built up and citizens who trust more in their governments and health agencies, according to new research by York University Assistant Professor of sociology Cary Wu and team.

The paper was published in the journal Contexts.

Social capital refers to the networks of relationships between people who live, work and play in any one place, and speaks to the strength of their communities, workplaces and other social groups.

Cary Wu
Cary Wu

As pandemics such as COVID-19 spread because of our social nature, having high social capital and trust is one way to help prevent spread.

“States with higher trust and social capital are better able to mobilize resources and foster collective actions,” says Wu of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

The researchers found that states with the most social capital and trust positively predicted which ones tended to have higher testing rates. This was regardless of household income, income inequality, racial diversity or whether the states had a Republican or Democratic leaning.

“People with little confidence in their government or health agencies are less likely to comply with prevention and control measures,” says Wu.

The researchers used data from the Social Capital Project to ascertain the levels of social capital and trust in each state.

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