Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Misum Working Paper Series,
Stockholm School of Economics, Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum)

No 2022-9: Media coverage and pandemic behaviour: Evidence from Sweden

Marcel Garz () and Maiting Zhuang ()
Additional contact information
Marcel Garz: Jönköping University, Postal: Jönköping International Business School, Gjuterigatan 5, 55318 , Jönköping, Sweden
Maiting Zhuang: Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum), Postal: Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum), Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: We study the effect of media coverage on individual behaviour during a public health crisis. For this purpose, we collect a unique dataset of 200,000 newspaper articles about the Covid-19 pandemic from Sweden – one of the few countries that did not impose mandatory lockdowns or curfews. We show that mentions of Covid-19 significantly lowered the number of visits to workplaces and retail and recreation areas, while increasing the duration of stays in residential locations. Using two different identification strategies, we show that these effects are causal. The impacts are largest when Covid-19 news stories are more locally relevant, more visible and more factual. We find larger behavioural effects for articles that reference crisis managers (as opposed to medical experts) and contain explicit public health advice. These results have wider implications for the design of public communications and the value of the local media.

Keywords: Covid-19; Mobility; Newspapers; Persuasion; Public health

JEL-codes: D83; H12; I12; I18; J22; L82

Language: English

84 pages, August 2, 2022

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