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Economic Inequality and Covid-19 Death Rates in the First Wave, a Cross-Country Analysis

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  • James Davies

Abstract

The cross-country relationship between Covid-19 crude mortality rates and previously measured income inequality and poverty in the pandemic’s first wave is studied, controlling for other underlying factors, in a sample of 141 countries. An older population, fewer hospital beds, lack of universal BCG (tuberculosis) vaccination, and greater urbanization are associated with higher mortality. The death rate has a consistent strong positive relationship with the Gini coefficient for income. Poverty as measured by the $1.90 per day standard has a small negative association with death rates. The elasticity of Covid-19 deaths with respect to the Gini coefficient, evaluated at sample means, is 0.9. Assuming the observed empirical relationships unchanged, if the Gini coefficient in all countries where it is above the OECD median was instead at that median, 67,000 fewer deaths would have been expected after 150 days of the pandemic - - a reduction of 10%. Shrinking “excess Gini’s” down to the G7 median reduces predicted deaths by 88,500, or 14%.

Suggested Citation

  • James Davies, 2021. "Economic Inequality and Covid-19 Death Rates in the First Wave, a Cross-Country Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 8957, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8957
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Angus Deaton, 2003. "Health, Inequality, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 113-158, March.
    2. Neil Cummins & Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2016. "Living standards and plague in London, 1560–1665," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(1), pages 3-34, February.
    3. Nejat Anbarci & Monica Escaleras & Charles A. Register, 2012. "From Cholera Outbreaks to Pandemics: The Role of Poverty and Inequality," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 57(1), pages 21-31, May.
    4. Arindam Banik & Tirthankar Nag & Sahana Roy Chowdhury & Rajashri Chatterjee, 2020. "Why Do COVID-19 Fatality Rates Differ Across Countries? An Explorative Cross-country Study Based on Select Indicators," Global Business Review, International Management Institute, vol. 21(3), pages 607-625, June.
    5. Jung, Juergen & Manley, James & Shrestha, Vinish, 2021. "Coronavirus infections and deaths by poverty status: The effects of social distancing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 182(C), pages 311-330.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hideki Toya & Mark Skidmore, 2021. "A Cross-Country Analysis of the Determinants of Covid-19 Fatalities," CESifo Working Paper Series 9028, CESifo.
    2. Parantap Basu & Ritwik Mazumder, 2021. "Regional disparity of covid-19 infections: an investigation using state-level Indian data," Indian Economic Review, Springer, vol. 56(1), pages 215-232, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Covid-19 pandemic inequality poverty mortality;

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other

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