Racial/Ethnic Differences in Prosocial Beliefs and Prevention Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Heather Orom, Natasha C. Allard, Marc T. Kiviniemi, Jennifer L. Hay, Erika A. Waters, Elizabeth Schofield, Sarah N. Thomas, Malwina Tuman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Controlling the COVID-19 pandemic has required communities to engage in prosocial action, including behaviors that may inconvenience individuals, but protect the collective (e.g., mask wearing, social distancing). The purpose of this study was to understand to what extent COVID-19 prosocial beliefs and behavior differ by race/ethnicity and why this might be the case. A US nationally representative sample of 410 adults completed a survey about COVID-19 beliefs and prevention behaviors between June 12 and 18, 2020. Compared to White respondents, Black respondents perceived the risk of COVID-19 to be greater to the US population; and both Black and Latinx respondents thought it was more important to protect a variety of non-close others (e.g., people in their city or state). Black and Latinx respondents engaged in several prevention behaviors, including social distancing, to a greater extent than White respondents. There were indirect effects of Black vs. White race on engaging in protective behaviors through greater perceived risk to others and beliefs in the importance of protecting distal others. Results indicate that targeted messages promoting prevention, including vaccination with pro-social messages, may resonate with communities of color. They also suggest that lower levels of prosocial beliefs among White people have likely hindered the US response to the epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1807-1817
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute.


  • Black
  • COVID-19
  • Latinx/Hispanic
  • Perceived risk
  • Prevention
  • Prosocial
  • Race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Racial/Ethnic Differences in Prosocial Beliefs and Prevention Behavior During the COVID-19 Pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this