Coping with Covid-19

Social distancing, cohesion and inequality in 2020 France
  • Illustration MuchMania (via Shutterstock)Illustration MuchMania (via Shutterstock)

Welcome to the Homepage of the project Coping with Covid-19. Social distancing, cohesion and inequality in 2020 France. The project - led by research and administrative staff at Sciences Po (OSC & CDSP) - started the First of April 2020.

You can find below several links and resources to follow up the main results and publications related to the CoCo project.

A study conducted before, during and after the lockdown

Democratic societies are predicated on personal liberties, among which is the freedom to move. Yet, the Covid-19 pandemic is now forcing states to drastically curb such freedoms. This is an unprecedented social experiment during peacetime. Suddenly, countries are locked down – schools are closed, unnecessary movements sanctioned, international, and to some extent even national travel is made difficult or even illegal. Face-to-face interactions are discouraged, under the rule of ‘social distancing’ that epidemiologists recommend as the best practice to slow the spread of the virus.

These new rules of social life – imposed politically ex abrupto – are not without societal consequences. Everyday life (work, education, household organization, sociability, leisure...) is disrupted and dramatic changes in attitudes, social behaviors and practices will be occurring during the next few months.

A social inequality focus

The project CoCo aims at assessing the social effects of the current Covid-19 pandemic drawing on a unique empirical design that builds upon: (1) longitudinal tracking (including ex-ante/ex-post measurements), (2) an original mixed-method approach and (3) and a wide range of socioeconomic, socio-psychological and socio-political indicators. Its findings will reveal both the micro- and macro-social impact of the current crisis.

The French government has introduced strict containment measures since March 17, 2020. While the outbreak is primarily a health concern, it has also rapidly become an economic and political crisis. Its potential social outcomes are uncertain, in an already contentious social climate due to the Yellow Vests movement and pension reform protests.

This project adopts a social inequality approach to study the potential social effects of the Covid- 19 crisis in France and will draw on the expertise of research team members from the Observatoire Sociologique du Changement (OSC) and the Centre de Données Socio-Politiques (CDSP) at Sciences Po. We will address two main research questions:

  • At the micro-level, how do different social groups (by gender, age, social class, employment, household and housing type, areas of residence) react to social distancing and the prescription to avoid social contact? Is everybody equally able to cope socially, psychologically, and economically with such changes? 
  • At the macro-level, to what extent will the current crisis reconfigure social inequality in French society? And overall, what is the impact of these (albeit temporary) new rules of social life on social cohesion?

Use an existing longitudinal survey: The ELIPSS Panel

The quantitative component of the project leverages pre-existing data collected before the social distancing measures were introduced. These data are provided by the ELIPSS longitudinal survey, which has been running periodically since 2012 on a representative sample of the French population (1400 people with an average of 80% response rate). The project will take advantage of this panel by running five new surveys (four in April and May 2020, and one in Autumn 2020), thus covering the subsequent stages of the Covid-19 crisis.

The panel will track changes in social practices, sociability, household arrangements, life plans, mental health conditions, and socio-political attitudes and also newer processes that emerge as the pandemic evolves. 

Complementary approach: the qualitative toolbox

The qualitative component will target social mechanisms, meaning-making, and innovative agency throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
We will explore respondents’ views and practices in three domains: communication, schooling, and work.

This approach will also unpack respondents’ perceptions and meaning- making of society and government vis-a-vis ambiguity, uncertainty, stress, or fear. It will also be able to uncover emerging innovations in social, political, and economic relations as a result of the pandemic.

We will employ online methods with digital devices. At the same time, we will continue to use the framework of traditional protocols with interviews, observations, online content analysis, and research diaries. These different qualitative methods will triangulate data from the panel survey data.

The combination of the in-depth interviews and personal diaries will allow more fine-grained understanding of changes in perceptions and feelings, while the ethnography will provide reliable data on everyday practices, and the online content analysis will provide a grounded analysis of social and political opinions.

This project is funded by the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche), call Flash Covid-19 (March 2020).


Job position

Post-doctoral research fellow in data analysis (12 months). Deadline 30th September  2020.

Article updated on 06-04-2022
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