Cultural differences in COVID-19 spread and policy compliance: evidence from Switzerland
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic is currently spreading all over the world, we still observe dramatic variation between and, even within, countries in the speed of the infection, in the observed fatality rates and in the effectiveness of the containment measures put in place by most countries. This paper sheds light on the role of culture exploiting the large cultural variation between German and Latin (French and Italian) speaking regions in Switzerland. Consistently with the large difference in social contacts across generations between these two distinct cultural groups, it shows that the disease affected disproportionately elderly people only in Latin regions. Then, it shows that cultural differences are also associated with different levels of compliance with the containment measures put in place by the Swiss government. Mobility data by Google and Apple clearly show that people living in Latin-speaking regions started reducing their movements a week before the lockdown and then complied more strictly than their German counterparts with the policy. This differential compliance across language regions clearly affected the epidemic curves. Using an event study design, we reveal that Latin regions experiencing a faster decline in the growth rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths than their German counterpart.