Joint publication by Sofia Amaral-Garcia (I3h Senior Fellow), Mattia Nardotto, Carol Propper, Tommaso Valletti

The paper examines the effect of internet diffusion on the uptake of an important public health intervention: the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The study focuses on England between 2000 and 2011, a period marked by rapid internet diffusion and the widespread impact of a high-profile medical article that falsely linked the MMR vaccine to autism. Ordinary least squares (OLS) estimates suggest that internet diffusion led to an increase in vaccination rates. However, this result is reversed after accounting for the endogeneity of internet access. The effect of internet diffusion is substantial: a one standard deviation increase in internet penetration resulted in approximately a 20% decrease in vaccination rates. Localities characterized by higher proportions of high-skilled individuals and lower deprivation levels exhibited a larger response to internet diffusion. These findings are consistent with the notion that higher skilled and less deprived parents responded more quickly to the false information suggesting that the vaccine could lead to autism.

Link to working paper