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No clear association emerges between intergenerational relationships and COVID-19 fatality rates from macro-level analyses

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  • Arpino, Bruno
  • Bordone, Valeria
  • Pasqualini, Marta

Abstract

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, originated in Wuhan (China) at the end of 2019, rapidly spread in more than 100 countries. Researchers in different fields have been working on finding explanations for the unequal impact of the virus, and deaths from the associated disease (COVID-19), in different geographical areas. Demographers and other social scientists, have hinted at the importance of demographic factors, such as age structure and intergenerational relationships. The goal of this article is to reflect on the possible link between intergenerational relationships and COVID-19 cases in a critical way. We show that with available aggregate data it is not possible to draw robust evidence to support such a link. In fact, at the country-level higher prevalence of intergenerational co-residence and contacts is broadly positively associated with number of COVID-19 cases (per 100,000 persons), but the opposite is generally true at the sub-national level. While this inconsistent evidence neither demonstrates the existence nor the inexistence of a causal link between intergenerational relationships and the prevalence of COVID-19 cases, we warn against simplistic interpretations of the available data which suffer from many shortcomings. Only retrospective individual level data will provide robust evidence on the role of intergenerational ties. We conclude arguing that intergenerational relationships are not only about physical contacts between family members. From a theoretical point of view, different forms of intergenerational relationships may have causal effects of opposite sign on the diffusion of COVID-19. Policies devoted at fighting the spread of COVID-19 should also take into account that intergenerational ties are a source of instrumental and emotional support, which may favor compliance to the lockdown and “phase-2” restrictions and may buffer their negative consequences on mental health.

Suggested Citation

  • Arpino, Bruno & Bordone, Valeria & Pasqualini, Marta, 2020. "No clear association emerges between intergenerational relationships and COVID-19 fatality rates from macro-level analyses," SocArXiv y8hpr, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:y8hpr
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/y8hpr
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    Cited by:

    1. Bruno Arpino & Marta Pasqualini & Valeria Bordone, 2021. "Physically distant but socially close? Changes in non-physical intergenerational contacts at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic among older people in France, Italy and Spain," European Journal of Ageing, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 185-194, June.
    2. Timothy Riffe & Enrique Acosta & José M. Aburto & Diego Alburez-Gutierrez & Ugofilippo Basellini & Anna Altová & Simona Bignami & Didier Breton & Eungang Choi & Jorge Cimentada & Gonzalo De Armas & Em, 2020. "COVerAGE-DB: a database of age-structured COVID-19 cases and deaths," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2020-032, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

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