Predicting Behavior in a Pandemic
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Predicting Behavior in a Pandemic

JEROME ADDA IS INVESTIGATING A KEY ELEMENT IN IMPLEMENTING POLICIES THAT MINIMIZE THE INFECTION

Economics and epidemiology meet in a project by Jérôme Adda, Full Professor in the Department of Economics, for the COVID Crisis Lab. This project aims to provide a comparative cost-effectiveness analysis of public policies during the Covid-19 epidemic in France, examining social distancing, testing, and protective measures like hand-washing and wearing a mask. The goal is to have one more item in the tool kit to help policy makers take rational decisions. “We want to deepen our understanding of how individuals perceive the threat of the infection,” he says. “What are the beliefs that guide their behavior? You can tell people to wear a mask, and they may or may not believe you.”
 
The cost analysis is not the focus of the study, says Adda. “The key is more to look at what kind of policies should be implemented to minimize the infection.” The model is a cross between epidemiology and economics, so it also incorporates behavior. Epidemiological models tend to leave behavior out. “There is a lot of work to be done in terms of integrating behavior and beliefs into models currently used for predicting an epidemic, but which are poor in predicting behavior,” he notes.
 
Adda is also working on a second research project, with Paolo Pinotti, Associate Professor in Economics at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, using data to examine the cultural norms of how people comply (or do not comply) with health recommendations. “We are looking at measures of trust, and trust in government in general, and see how that affects people’s respect for recommendations,” says Adda. The pair are crunching tracking data from Google for millions of people across Europe, Asia and the US, plus information from the World Values Survey that reveals people’s attitudes towards governments and other people. Research is ongoing and will be concluded in a few months.

by Jennifer Clark

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