Social Science Insights on COVID-19

Featured Yale faculty: Jason Abaluck | Jeffrey Alexander | Joseph Altonji | John Bargh | Steven Berry | Judith Chevalier | Nicholas Christakis | Zack Cooper | Molly Crockett | Kevin Donovan | Justin Farrell | Eli Fenichel | Pinelopi Goldberg | Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham | Jacob Hacker | Gregory Huber | John Eric Humphries | Jutta Joormann | Edward H. Kaplan | Anthony Leiserowitz | Thomas Lyttelton | Andrew Metrick | Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak | Giuseppe Moscarini | William Nordhaus | Cormac O’Dea | Rohini Pande | Laurie Santos | Peter Schott | Ian Shapiro | Robert J. Shiller | Ebonya Washington | Kevin Williams | Emma Zang | Fabrizio Zilibotti

Professor Jason Abaluck photoJason Abaluck

Associate Professor of Economics

Professor Abaluck, with several colleagues around the university, is measuring the benefits of policies designed to combat the spread of COVID-19 such as broader adoption of masks and coupling incentives with testing to construct more representative samples.

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Professor Jeffrey Alexander photoJeffrey Alexander

Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology

Jeffrey Alexander works in the areas of theory, culture, and politics. An exponent of the “strong program” in cultural sociology, he has investigated the cultural codes and narratives that inform diverse areas of social life. Working with colleagues and students, Professor Alexander has developed a theory of cultural trauma that describes the process that unfolds after groups — whether national, institutional, religious, or ethnic communities — experience a horrendous event that indelibly changes their collective identity. Recently, he has applied that theory to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Joseph Altonji photoJoseph Altonji

Thomas DeWitt Cuyler Professor of Economics

Professor Altonji specializes in labor economics and applied econometrics. His interests include labor market fluctuations, labor supply, consumption behavior, the economics of education, economic links among family members, race and gender in the labor market, wage determination, and econometric methods. He has worked with a group of Yale economists to report on the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. small businesses and the hourly workers they employ.

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John Bargh photoJohn Bargh

James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology and Professor of Management

Dr. Bargh directs the ACME lab (Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Emotion) which focuses on unconscious influences in every life – choices, behavior, attitudes, emotions, preferences. Regarding the current pandemic, we are comparing actual mobility using online data bases to self-reported quarantine and social distancing, across all 50 states. One issue in current behavioral science research that relies heavily on surveys and self report questionnaires is whether those self reports are accurate – there is a long history in psychology concerning a person’s actual lack of accurate access to their internal thought processes, intentions, and whether they carry out those intentions or not.

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Steven Berry photoSteven Berry

David Swensen Professor of Economics and Jeffrey Talpins Faculty Director of the Tobin Center for Economic Policy at Yale

Professor Berry is a Yale economist who has been advising policymakers and legislators during the COVID-19 pandemic.  He has partnered with Zack Cooper to advance policy relevant research during this critical time for public health and the U.S. economy.

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Professor Judith Chevalier photoJudith Chevalier

William S Beinecke Professor of Management and Professor of Economics

Professor Chevalier has researched the economic benefits of universal mask-wearing (published in the journal COVID Economics) and is working on a project examining socioeconomic disparities in access to retail and its implications for COVID-19 exposure.

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Professor Nicholas Christakis photoNicholas Christakis

Sterling Professor of Sociology and Professor in the Institute for Social and Policy Studies, of Biomedical Engineering, of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and of Medicine (General Medicine)

Dr. Christakis’ team is assessing networks in dueling contagions by working on FluSight (app) and African flu surveillance. His team is also evaluating the Chinese mobility restrictions, the American response to isolation, and COVID-19 effect on elections.

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Professor Zack Cooper photoZack Cooper

Associate Professor of Public Health (Health Policy), Associate Professor of Economics, and Associate Professor in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Dr. Cooper’s team is estimating the scale of the revenue contraction health care providers are experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the appropriate provider reimbursements for COVID-19 testing. Together with Tobin Center faculty co-director Steve Berry, he is also advising state and federal officials on COVID-19 policies from an economic perspective.

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Molly Crockett

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Dr. Crockett and her team are studying how social and moral cognition shape people’s responses to social distancing measures and willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn more about the Crockett Lab.

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Kevin Donovan photoKevin Donovan

Assistant Professor of Economics, Yale School of Management

In the developing world, many of those most at risk from the economic effects of COVID-19 are beyond the reach of aid programs. Yale SOM’s Kevin Donovan is testing the use of the transfers in a slum on the outskirts of Nairobi.

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Justin Farrell photoJustin Farrell

Associate Professor of Sociology at the Yale School of the Environment

Justin Farrell is a professor and author whose research tackles questions of environment, politics, human culture, conflict, and policy using a mixture of methods, blending ethnographic fieldwork with large-scale computational techniques from network science and machine learning.

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Eli Fenichel

Associate Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Dr. Fenichel’s team is measuring how Americans are responding to COVID-19 and distancing policies. They are using this information to develop behavioral based epidemiological models using a variety of data sources including cell phone tracking and administrative data, analyzing the risks to the United States labor force from COVID-19 and distancing measures, evaluating the unintended consequences of distancing measures, and working on improved testing statistics. Interactive results can be found at Complications mapping and Childcare mapping.

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Professor Pinelopi Goldberg photoPinelopi Goldberg

Elihu Professor of Economics

Professor Goldberg, former chief economist at the World Bank Group, is now studying policy responses to the crisis in developing countries and collaborating with colleagues at Yale’s Center for Economic Growth to collect data on COVID-19’s effects on low-income populations.

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Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham

Assistant Professor of Finance

Professor Goldsmith Pinkham is working on two projects. One aims to provide high-frequency predictions on unemployment insurance claims using Google Trends data at the state and national level to help guide policy. The other, which involves a team of researchers, aims to implement interventions that encourage social distancing and hygiene in India.

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Jacob Hacker photoJacob Hacker

Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science

As an author and educator, Jacob Hacker examines how our political system affects the well-being and potential of ordinary Americans. He focuses in particular on economic insecurity and inequality, which he regards as the great economic challenges of our day, especially laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Gregory Huber

Forst Family Professor and Department Chair of Political Science, Resident Fellow of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Associate Director of the Center for the Study of American Politics, Director of the ISPS Behavioral Research Lab

Dr. Huber’s group is examining social norms and practices about social distancing, safe election practices during a public health outbreak, and how political messages and orientations relate to beliefs about the severity and appropriate response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


John Eric Humphries

Assistant Professor of Economics

Working with researchers at Princeton and Oxford, Professor Humphries and his team are studying small businesses in the United States and Latin America to understand better how they have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. They are also assessing the role of information frictions in the utilization of government programs designed to help small businesses.

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Jutta Joormann

Professor of Psychology

Professor Joormann studies mental health effects of the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, her lab examines how individual differences in emotion regulation and cognition affect depression and anxiety in children, adolescents, and adults throughout the US during COVID-19. Her team evaluates how depression and anxiety symptoms prior to the crisis are related to well-being during the present crisis, and if cognitive factors, especially emotion regulation, contribute to risk and resilience.


Professor Edward Kaplan photoEdward H. Kaplan

William N. and Marie A. Beach Professor of Operations Research at SOM, Professor of Public Health, and Professor of Engineering

Professor Kaplan, an expert on modeling and the spread of infectious disease, has developed what he calls “scratch models” – the mathematical models developed quickly as events unfold – with the goal of providing rigor and context to decision makers as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  His models are being used to inform decisions at Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the State of Connecticut.

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Anthony Leiserowitz

Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC)

Dr. Leiserowitz and his research lab have been conducting social science surveys on the American response to COVID-19. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication will be releasing additional reports based on these surveys, including analyses of the impacts of the epidemic on public mental health, public acceptance of the CDC recommendation that individuals wear masks, and public responses by state.

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Thomas Lyttelton photoThomas Lyttelton

Ph.D. Candidate in the Yale Department of Sociology

Tom Lyttelton’s dissertation project examines the relationship between workplace contexts, coworker interactions, and labor market outcomes.

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Andrew Metrick

Janet L. Yellen Professor of Finance and Management

In an online event hosted by the Bank for International Settlement, Professor Metrick, director of the Yale Program on Financial Stability, discussed actions that governments have already taken to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from sparking a full-blown financial crisis, and the challenges still to come.

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Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

Professor of Management and of Economics

Professor Mobarak and the team at Y-RISE are conducting high-frequency phone-based surveys and experimental evaluations to support the government of Bangladesh develop an evidence-based policy response to contain the COVID-19 crisis. They are combining the data with modeling to provide guidance on appropriate policy responses in low and middle-income countries.

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Giuseppe Moscarini photoGiuseppe Moscarini

Professor of Economics

Giuseppe Moscarini is an economist and labor market expert who has proposed policy measures to address the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on his research during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, Professor Moscarini offers recommendations for keeping workers and businesses afloat, productive, and attached to each other.

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William Nordhaus photoWilliam Nordhaus

Sterling Professor of Economics and Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies

A team of social scientists led by Nobel Prize-winning Yale economist William Nordhaus has pioneered a new approach to appraising the state of the U.S. labor market in real time. The Yale Labor Survey (YLS), a rapid-fire survey tool that collects weekly data on the labor market experience of U.S. households, has been used to estimate and track the U.S. unemployment rate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Cormac O'Dea photoCormac O’Dea

Assistant Professor of Economics

Cormac O’Dea’s research interests include labor economics and public economics.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been working with new sources of data like Homebase to study employment patterns in the U.S. and explore how firms and workers respond to policy changes in real time.

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Rohini Pande

Henry J. Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director, Economic Growth Center

Professor Pande and Charity Troyer Moore (at Yale’s Macmillan Center) are working to collect and analyze information on how the COVID-related lockdown in India and Nepal is affecting those countries’ very poorest citizens, and in particular poor women. Through this work they aim to help ensure that policy-makers responsible for mitigating the effects of lockdown can effectively target those most in need.

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Laurie Santos

Professor of Psychology

Dr. Santos is using her podcast (The Happiness Lab, Pushkin Industries) to share best practices to protect one’s mental health during this crisis. She plans to deliver 1-2 episodes of the podcast per week during the pandemic with the goal of communicating evidence-based tips that her listeners can use to improve their mental health and reduce anxiety during this challenging time.

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Peter Schott

Juan Trippe Professor of International Economics

Professor Schott and his team are using unexpected changes in the trajectory of COVID-19 infections to quantify its impact on aggregate and firm-level stock returns. They are also investigating whether these relationships are useful in predicting employment losses and other outcomes.

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Ian Shapiro photoIan Shapiro

Sterling Professor of Political Science

Ian Shapiro has written widely and influentially on democracy, justice, and the methods of social inquiry.  He has coauthored a new book, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It, with Michael Graetz, a professor at Columbia Law School and professor emeritus at Yale University. They have highlighted deficiencies in U.S. social insurance as it relates to job loss, an issue which has become even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Robert Shiller photoRobert J. Shiller

Sterling Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, and Professor of Finance and Fellow at the International Center for Finance, SOM

Nobel Prize-winning Yale economist Robert Shiller has written on financial markets, financial innovation, behavioral economics, macroeconomics, real estate, statistical methods, and on public attitudes, opinions, and more judgments regarding markets. He is frequently asked to share his insights on matters regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the U.S. and global economies.

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Ebonya Washington photoEbonya Washington

Samuel C. Park Jr. Professor of Economics

Professor Washington specializes in public finance and political economy with research interests in the interplay of race, gender and political representation; the behavioral motivations and consequences of political participation; and the processes through which low income Americans meet their financial needs.

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Kevin Williams

Associate Professor of Economics

Dr. Williams and a team of economists are using smartphone movement data to create human exposure indices for COVID-19 modeling. They are studying movements within and across counties, as well as measuring exposure at the establishment level.

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Emma Zang photoEmma Zang

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Emma Zang is a demographer and quantitative methodologist whose research interests lie at the intersection of health and aging, marriage and family, and inequality.

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Fabrizio Zilibotti

Tuntex Professor of International and Development Economics

Professor Zilibotti is studying the effectiveness of different policies to combat COVID-19 across European countries and regions. He is also working on the effect of the crisis for children’s education. In particular, he focuses on the unequal effect of school closures on children from different socio-economic background both in the US and from a comparative perspective. In cooperation with a team of Chinese researchers, he is engaged in data collection for a study aimed to evaluate the nature and effect of lockdown policy in China.

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