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Press Release

Cleveland Fed survey finds most consumers wearing masks in public indoor spaces; older respondents more likely to follow mask-wearing rules

Masks or cloth face coverings have the potential to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 without greatly disrupting economic activity if they are widely used. This Economic Commentary provides survey evidence on recent and prospective mask-wearing behavior and beliefs by consumers, as part of the Consumers and COVID-19 survey project sponsored by the Cleveland Fed.

The researchers, Edward S. Knotek II, Raphael S. Schoenle, Alexander M. Dietrich, Gernot J. Müller, Kristian Ove R. Myrseth, and Michael Weber, find that most respondents are wearing masks in public but that some respondents are less likely to follow social-distancing guidelines while doing so. While most respondents indicated that they were extremely likely to wear a mask if required by public authorities, the reported likelihood is strongly dependent on age, and perceived mask efficacy.

The researchers find that older respondents are more likely to follow mask-wearing requirements than are younger respondents. In addition, individuals who indicated that wearing masks helped “a lot” or “some” in reducing the spread of the coronavirus were far more likely to follow mask-wearing requirements than were those who believed that wearing masks does “nothing.”

“We found that the vast majority of respondents, almost 90 percent, reported having worn a mask the last time they went out in public to an indoor space, even though not all were required by state or local ordinance to do so,” say the researchers. “In addition, most felt more comfortable when employees and other shoppers were wearing masks, and there was widespread agreement that wearing a mask was helpful in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.”

Read more: Consumers and COVID-19: Survey Results on Mask-Wearing Behaviors and Beliefs

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.218.1892