The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions have reshaped economic activity with abrupt changes in household consumption behavior across the world. This paper provides an empirical investigation of how the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has affected consumer spending at daily frequency using debit and credit card transactions in three European countries. Empirical results show that COVID-19 vaccinations, along with other policy interventions, have mitigated the severe negative impact of the pandemic and boosted consumer spending. First, the vaccination deployment has a statistically and economically significant positive effect on private consumption. Second, other policy responses to the pandemic—designed to contain the spread of the virus and provide support to businesses and households—have significant effects on the amount and composition of debit and credit card transactions. Third, the impact of COVID-19 vaccinations in terms of stimulating consumer spending appears to be more pronounced on contact-intensive sectors such as services than goods.
Humans are usually compassionate, caring and empathetic toward others, but are we really hardwired for altruism when a disaster hits? There is evidence that people exposed to natural disasters tend to behave more philanthropically, but most studies rely on small-scale surveys and experimental data. For that reason, this paper contributes to the literature by investigating whether the COVID-19 pandemic has altered prosocial tendencies and charitable donations, using a novel daily dataset of debit and credit card transactions. I conduct a real-time analysis of actual charitable donations in three European countries and find that the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions have no significant effect on how much people contribute to charities as a share of total spending. A higher preference for precautionary savings in the midst of the pandemic appears to outweigh altruistic behavior, while government welfare programs crowds out private charitable donations.