The potential stickiness of pandemic-induced behavior changes in the United States

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Jul 6;118(27):e2106499118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2106499118.


Human behavior is notoriously difficult to change, but a disruption of the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to bring about long-term behavioral changes. During the pandemic, people have been forced to experience new ways of interacting, working, learning, shopping, traveling, and eating meals. A critical question going forward is how these experiences have actually changed preferences and habits in ways that might persist after the pandemic ends. Many observers have suggested theories about what the future will bring, but concrete evidence has been lacking. We present evidence on how much US adults expect their own postpandemic choices to differ from their prepandemic lifestyles in the areas of telecommuting, restaurant patronage, air travel, online shopping, transit use, car commuting, uptake of walking and biking, and home location. The analysis is based on a nationally representative survey dataset collected between July and October 2020. Key findings include that the "new normal" will feature a doubling of telecommuting, reduced air travel, and improved quality of life for some.

Keywords: COVID-19; disruption; remote work; survey; telecommuting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Travel / psychology
  • Behavior*
  • COVID-19 / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Teleworking