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EconPol Europe: Coronavirus Crisis Promotes Altruism and Social Exchange

Information on the Covid-19 pandemic triggers altruistic behavior and willingness to discuss with citizens of their own country, other EU countries, and non-EU citizens. Information on the importance of shared European values also increases altruism and reciprocity, but only toward compatriots and fellow Europeans. These are the findings of a large-scale survey experiment conducted by the EconPol Europe research network. “Interestingly, information on common economic interests had no tangible impact on people’s behavior,” says Mathias Dolls, a researcher in the EconPol network and co‑author of the study.

The survey was conducted in August 2020 in nine European countries where the impact of the pandemic varied widely: France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. Participants in the experiment were divided into different groups. Members of the first group were given information about the pandemic, in particular the total number of deaths per million people in their own country as well as across the EU. The second group received information on the importance of the EU single market for their own country. Information for the third group focused on sharing the common values of peace, democracy, protection of human rights, and equality in Europe. EconPol researchers examined the effect of these different types of information on altruism, reciprocity, and trust in others. Trust was not affected by any of the three information types. “Altruism, reciprocity, and social trust are important determinants of prosperity and a well-functioning society. The findings confirm the extent to which crises suffered together strengthen cohesion,” Dolls says.

Read the full paper:  “Calamities, Common Interests, Shared Identity: What Shapes Altruism and Reciprocity?”, by Cevat Giray Aksoy, Antonio Cabrales, Mathias Dolls, Ruben Durante, Lisa Windsteiger, EconPol Working Paper 64, May 2021

About EconPol Europe

EconPol Europe – the European network for economic and fiscal policy research – is a network of 14 policy-oriented university and non-university research institutes across 12 countries, who contribute scientific expertise to the discussion of the future design of the European Union. The network’s joint interdisciplinary research covers sustainable growth and best practice, reform of EU policies and the EU budget, capital markets and the regulation of the financial sector, and governance and macroeconomic policy in the European Monetary Union.
The network was founded in spring 2017 by the ifo Institute, along with eight renowned European research institutes. A further five associate partners* were added to the network in January 2019.
The foundation of EconPol Europe was made possible by an initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) to intensify and deepen cross-border research and cooperation in Europe. The ifo Institute was commissioned by the BMF to set up this independent network, providing evidence-based policy advice to inform the economic and fiscal policy debate in Europe.