Compliance with social distancing: Theory and empirical evidence from Ontario during COVID-19

Anastasios Papanastasiou, Bradley J. Ruffle, Angela Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We study the factors associated with compliance with social-distancing regulations using a unique data set on the behaviour of Ontarians during the COVID-19 pandemic. To start, we build a simple theoretical model of social distancing in order to understand how some individual and community-level factors influence compliance. We test our model's predictions by designing and conducting a survey on Ontarians in June and July 2020 in which we elicit their degree of compliance with existing distancing regulations as well as alternative policies such as fines for non-compliance and wage subsidies for staying at home. Consistent with our model, we find that variables related to one's risk of infection (e.g., pre-existing health condition, age, necessity of working outside the home and regional COVID-19 cases) are significant predictors of compliance as are gender, political beliefs, risk and time preferences. To boost compliance among those who are young, healthy or apartment dwellers, we demonstrate the effectiveness of fines and wage subsidies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-734
Number of pages30
JournalCanadian Journal of Economics
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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