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COVID-19 and People’s Health-Wealth Preferences: Information Effects and Policy Implications

Published time: 19 May 2020

Authors: Shaun Hargreaves Heap, Christel Koop, Konstantinos Matakos, Asli Unan, Nina Weber

Keywords: Covid-19, information, lockdown, policy compliance, value of life, health-wealth trade off.


Policy makers responding to COVID-19 need to know people’s relative valuation of health over wealth. Loosening and tightening lockdowns moves a society along a (perceived) health-wealth trade-off and the associated changes have to accord with the public’s relative valuation of health and wealth for maximum compliance. In our survey experiment (N=4,618), we randomize information provision on economic and health costs to assess public preferences over this trade-off in the UK and the US. People strongly prioritize health over wealth, but the treatment effects suggest these priorities will change as experience of COVID-19 deaths and income losses evolves. Information also has heterogeneous/polarizing effects. These results encourage policy caution. Individual differences in health-wealth valuation highlight this study’s importance because they map onto compliance with current lockdown measures.

COVID-19 and people's health-wealth preferences Information effects and policy implications



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