A new study has revealed that US counties with higher income inequality faced higher rates of Covid-19 infections and deaths in the first 200 days of the pandemic.
The study by researchers at the University of Illinois (UI) and issued on Monday included 3,141 of 3,142 counties in the US with available data, with the remaining county excluded due to incomplete information, Xinhua news agency reported.
The 200 days for which they collected data spanned from January 22, 2020, when the first case was confirmed in the US, to August 8, 2020.
The researchers found that a 1 per cent increase in a county’s Black population corresponded to an average 1.9 per cent increase in infections and a 2.6 per cent increase in mortality due to Covid-19.
A 1 per cent increase in a county’s Hispanic population corresponded to an average 2.4 per cent increase in incidence and a 1.9 per cent increase in mortality.
A 1 per cent rise in a county’s income inequality, as determined by a research measure called the Gini index, corresponded to an average 2 per cent rise in Covid-19 incidence and a 3 per cent rise in mortality.
The researchers noted that the average Gini index in US counties was 44.5 and ranged from 25.7 to 66.5, based on a 100-point scale.
Among other study results, the researchers found that the rate of virus infection was lower by an average of 32 per cent in counties that were part of states covered by the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, though they found no association with mortality rates.
The findings suggested that “high levels of income inequality harm population health irrespective of racial/ethnic composition”, said the researchers,
No matter how they analysed the data, “two things emerged, one is the racial and ethnic dimension, the other is the income inequality dimension. They’re always there, always strong”, said lead author Tim Liao, head of the sociology department at UI.
“Many studies have concluded that Covid-19 has revealed the fault lines of inequality in the US,” the researchers wrote.
“This study expands that picture by illustrating how county-level income inequality matters, in itself and through its interaction with racial/ethnic composition, to systematically disadvantage Black and Hispanic communities.”
As of Tuesday morning, the country’s overall caseload has increased to 25,261,902, while the death toll stood at 420,873.