Rich people more likely to social distance amid Covid-19 pandemic, study finds


According to economists at the John Hopkins University, United States, the higher a person’s income, the more likely they are to protect themselves at the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study revealed that the affluent adhere more to the Covid-19 guidelines, including social distancing and mask-wearing.

People who made around $230,000 a year were as much as 54 per cent more likely to increase these types of self-protective behaviour compared to people making about $13,000.

Also read: Covid-19: Face masks could lead to more infection without strict adherence to guidelines

Nick Papageorge, the Broadus Mitchell Associate Professor of Economics said: “We need to understand these differences because we can wring our hands, and we can blame and shame, but in a way, it doesn’t matter.”

‘Assess trends’

“Policymakers just need to recognise who is going to socially distance, for how long, why and under what circumstances to give us accurate predictions of how the disease will spread and help us establish policies that will be useful,” he added.

For the study, the researcher surveyed around 1,000 people in the United States, from Texas, Florida, California, and New York. They were asked a series of questions in April 2020 to determine if and how their behaviour had changed as Covid-19 cases were beginning to spike across the country.

The resulting data includes information on income, gender, and race along with unique variables relevant to the pandemic, such as work arrangements and housing quality.

Adjusting to change

The team found that the pandemic prompted all the economic classes to adjust to change. However, people making the most money made the most changes.

The highest earners were 13 per cent more likely to change their behaviours; 32 per cent more likely to increase social distancing; and 30 per cent more likely to increase handwashing and mask-wearing.

Also read: US jobless claims rise on Covid

The team noted that it was also much easier for people with more money to take extra safety measures.

Higher-income individuals were more likely to report being able to work from home and more likely to have transitioned to telework instead of losing their job, the authors of the study noted.

The data also showed that women were 23 per cent more likely than men to social distance.

The findings of the study were published in the Journal of Population Economics.


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