Coronavirus Infections and Deaths by Poverty Status: The Effects of Social Distancing
Towson University, Department of Economics Working Paper Series, Working Paper No. 2020-03
47 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2020 Last revised: 15 Dec 2020
Date Written: June 9, 2020
We study the spread of COVID-19 infections and deaths by county poverty level in the US. In the beginning of the pandemic, counties with either very low poverty levels or very high poverty levels reported the highest numbers of cases. A U-shaped relationship prevails for counties with high population density while among counties with low population density, only poorer counties report high incidence rates of COVID-19. Second, we discuss the pattern of infections spreading from higher to lower income counties. Third, we show that stay-at-home mandates caused significantly higher reductions in mobility in high income counties that experienced adverse weather shocks than counties that did not. These effects are not present in counties with high poverty rates. Using weather shocks in combination with stay-at-home mandates as an instrument for social distancing, we find that measures taken to promote social distancing helped curb infections in high income counties but not in low income counties. These results have important policy implications for containing the spread of infectious diseases in the future.
Note: Funding: The study was not supported by any funding source.
Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Keywords: coronavirus, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, heterogeneous health effects, infections by poverty status, death rates by poverty status
JEL Classification: I14, I18, I32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation