Endogenous social distancing and containment policies in social networks

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Pub. Date
01 October, 2021

Can smart containment policies crowd out private efforts at social distancing? We analyse this question from the perspective of network formation theory. We focus in particular on the role of externalities in social distancing choices. We also look at how these choices are affected by factors such as the agents’ risk perception, the speed of the policy intervention, the structure of the underlying network and the presence of strategic complementarities. We argue that crowding out is a problem when the probability that an outbreak may spread undetected is relatively high (either because testing is too infrequent or because tests are highly inaccurate). This is also the case where the choice of relaxing social distancing generates the largest negative externalities. Simulations on a real-world network suggest that crowding out is more likely to occur when, in the absence of interventions, face-to-face contacts are perceived to carry relatively high risk.