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COVID social distancing and the poor: an analysis of the evidence for England.

Basu, Parantap and Bell, Clive and Edwards, T. Huw (2022) 'COVID social distancing and the poor: an analysis of the evidence for England.', B.E. journal of macroeconomics., 22 (1). pp. 211-240.


Social distancing is a matter of individuals’ choices as well as of regulation. We analyse weekly panel data on such behaviour for English Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLAs) from March to July 2020, paying attention to the influence of poverty, as measured by free school meals provision. Panel regressions suggest that, although more stringent regulation and slightly lagged local cases of infection increase social distancing, both effects are weaker in UTLAs with higher levels of poverty, in part because of poor housing, and also because shortage of money has forced the poor to keep working. Thus motivated, we develop a two-class (rich/poor) model, in which a Nash non-cooperative equilibrium arises from individual choices in a regulatory regime with penalties for non-compliance. The model yields results in keeping with the empirical findings, indicating the desirability of generous measures to furlough workers in low-paid jobs as a complement to the stringency of general regulation.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2021 Parantap Basu et al., published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Date accepted:31 January 2021
Date deposited:02 February 2021
Date of first online publication:16 February 2022
Date first made open access:16 February 2022

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