Guglielmo Briscese, Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, Mirco Tonin

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 26916
Issued in March 2020, Revised in April 2020
NBER Program(s):HE, PE

This paper was revised on April 1, 2020

Available Formats


We study how intentions to comply with the self-isolation restrictions introduced in Italy to mitigate the COVID-19 epidemic respond to the length of their possible extension. Based on a survey of a representative sample of Italian residents (N=894), we find that respondents are more likely to express the intention to reduce, and less willing to increase their self-isolation effort if negatively surprised by a given hypothetical extension, i.e. if the extension is longer than what they expected. These intentions are stronger among respondents who reported high compliance with the isolation prescriptions. In a context where individual compliance has collective benefits, but full enforcement is costly and controversial, communication and persuasion have a fundamental role. Our findings provide insights to public authorities on how to manage people’s expectations in public health emergencies that require prolonged lockdown measures.

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