The Covid has a negative influence on prosocial behavior
Covid-19 infection in the family leads to decreased confidence and willingness to cooperate among adolescents from lower socio-economically families
COVID-19 has particularly negative effects on people from economically weaker and less educated backgrounds, especially when we look at health, job security and education – as figures and studies from last months. In contrast, how the coronavirus pandemic affects prosocial behavior is still largely unknown. A group of economics researchers led by Matthias Sutter have now been able to show that prosocial behavior is also negatively affected by the pandemic. And here too, it is mainly socially weaker individuals who are affected.
Coronavirus infection within the family results in a drastic reduction in prosocial behavior in adolescents from lower socioeconomic families. This means that their willingness to trust, cooperate with, or help others decreases dramatically. This finding is the result of a study by behavioral economist Matthias Sutter, who works at the universities of Innsbruck and Cologne and at the Max Planck Institute for Public Goods Research in Bonn, in collaboration with a team of research from the University of Lausanne. and the Toulouse School of Economics.
Prosocial behavior is important for success in the workforce
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the research team initially began, in a study, to investigate friendship networks between schoolchildren. To do this, they were able to collect 5,000 datasets in French high schools by fall 2019. The researchers then repeated their study during the pandemic with a smaller number of the same test subjects. In the process, they were able to establish an interesting correlation that was not the subject of the study itself: “Prosociality was already lower in adolescents of low social status before the pandemic, and our data now show that COVID-19 infections in families has almost tripled the prosociality gap between participants with higher social status and those with lower social status, ”says Sutter.
The researcher in economics sees the relevance of this result above all in the fact that prosocial behavior is a determining factor in professional life. “Previous studies in behavioral economics provide clear evidence of the link between prosocial behavior and labor market success. The importance of these soft skills ultimately stems from the fact that getting along well with one another is also the raison d’être of everyday working life, ”explains Sutter.
While it is recognized that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in higher death rates and more frequent job losses in socio-economically less advantaged households, the negative effects on prosocial behavior do not become apparent until after. this study. “The presumption is that this trend will harm affected young adults in the long run, causing them additional disadvantage. This is an aspect that has so far received little attention in the public debate, ”emphasizes Matthias Sutter.
Four experiments to measure prosocial behavior
In total, during the first survey in autumn 2019, the research team was able to collect data from 5,000 high school students, aged 15 to 17, from the three French cities of Nantes, Montpellier and Créteil. Contacting the same teens proved difficult during the second wave of data collection in May and June 2020, due to lockdowns and associated home schooling. In the end, 363 participants of the first wave took part again in the experiments. The researchers captured prosocial behavior using four different experiments that measured the ability to trust and cooperate, as well as degrees of altruism and generosity.