This study analyzes the impact of COVID-19 deniers on the spread of COVID-19 in Germany. In a first step, we establish a link between regional proxies of COVID-19 deniers and infection rates. We then estimate the causal impact of large anti-lockdown protests on the spread of COVID-19 using an event study framework. Employing novel data on bus stops of travel companies specialized in driving protesters to these gatherings, and exploiting the timing of two large-scale demonstrations in November 2020, we find sizable increases in infection rates in protesters' origin regions after these demonstrations. Individual-level evidence supports the main results by documenting that COVID-19 deniers engage less in health protection behavior. Our results contribute to the debate about the public health costs of individual behavior that has detrimental externalities for the society.
Lange, Martin and Ole Monscheuer (2021), Spreading the Disease: Protest in Times of Pandemics, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 21-009, Mannheim. Download