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The impact of national culture on COVID-19 pandemic outcomes


  • Zhaochen He
  • Yixiao Jiang
  • Rik Chakraborti
  • Thomas D. Berry


Purpose - This study aims to uncover the extent to which cultural traits may explain the puzzling international divergence in COVID-19 outcomes, and how those traits interact with state action to produce compliance with pandemic health policy. Design/methodology/approach - A theoretical framework illustrates the surprising possibility that culture and state action may not reinforce each other but rather act as substitutes in eliciting anti-pandemic behavior. This possibility is tested empirically in two specifications: a cross-sectional regression that includes several novel COVID-related measures, and a panel model that controls for contemporaneous disease burden. Across these models, we use the measures of national culture developed by Hofstede (1984) and a newer metric developed by Schwartz (1990). Findings - Individualism and egalitarianism have a positive effect on disease prevalence, while cultural heterogeneity was associated with a more robust public health response. Consistent with our model, we find that culture and state action served as substitutes in motivating compliance with COVID-19 policy. Practical implications - The results of this study imply that culture and state interact in determining the effectiveness of public health measures aimed at combating COVID-19; these results recommend culturally aware state intervention when combating pandemics. Originality/value - This study offers several new contributions. First, it proposes a model to help contextualize the empirical analysis. Second, it examines a wider range of traits than previous studies, including cultural homogeneity and the Schwartz variables. Third, it employs a richer econometric specification that explores the interaction between state and culture in a panel context.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhaochen He & Yixiao Jiang & Rik Chakraborti & Thomas D. Berry, 2022. "The impact of national culture on COVID-19 pandemic outcomes," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, vol. 49(3), pages 313-335, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:ijse-07-2021-0424
    DOI: 10.1108/IJSE-07-2021-0424

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    Culture; Hofstede; Pandemic; COVID;
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