January 25, 2021

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The Richer You are, The More Likely You’ll Social Distance, Study Finds

The Richer You are, The More Likely You’ll Social Distance, Study Finds

The higher a person’s income, the more likely they were to protect themselves at the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, Johns Hopkins University economists find. From a report: When it comes to adopting behaviors including social distancing and mask wearing, the team detected a striking link to their financial well-being. People who made around $230,000 a year were as much as 54% more likely to increase these types of self-protective behaviors compared to people making about $13,000. The findings, that could contribute to more accurate predictions of how the disease will spread, appear in the latest Journal of Population Economics.

As part of a six-country survey, 1,000 people in the United States, from Texas, Florida, California and New York, were asked a series of questions in April 2020 to determine if and how their behavior 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. The team, which included economics graduate student Matthew Zahn, found that while almost everyone changed their behavior in some way to try to stay safe, people making the most money made the most changes. The highest earners were 13% more likely to change their behaviors, 32% more likely to increase social distancing and 30% more likely to increase hand washing and mask wearing. But the team found 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 researchers found the ability to telework emerged as a huge predictor of whether someone would social distance. Compared to somebody who continued to work, people able to telework were 24% more likely to social distance.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.