Compliance with coronavirus restrictions linked to income level

According to the data on the location of American mobile devices, residents of wealthy areas of the United States, after the introduction of restrictive measures, were more willing to stay at home compared to the poorer segments of society.

Despite the obvious need to impose restrictions on coronavirus, such as “self-isolation”, reduced contacts, closure of public places and, if possible, transfer of employees to remote work, to combat the pandemic, residents of many countries did not agree with such actions of the authorities. And if some calmly survived the forced “confinement” at home, continued to work or, finally, did what they had always lacked the strength and time for, then others had to break the prohibitions in order not to lose income and feed their families.

Scientists from the University of California at Davis decided to find out who was easiest to comply with the restriction regime and who was more inclined to do so. As it turned out, wealthy people who, before the coronavirus pandemic, did not sit still, traveled, went to restaurants, went on business trips – in general, showed themselves in every possible way as socially active – have become the least-mobile since mid-March.

“We found that before the pandemic, people living in the wealthiest neighborhoods in the United States were least likely to sit at home all day, whether it was a weekday or a weekend,” says lead author of the study published in PNAS, Joaquim Weil. “However, when emergencies came into play, people in the richest neighborhoods were more likely to stay at home. Everything became the other way around.



To conduct the study, the scientists used anonymous data that covers the entire US territory and was provided by SafeGraph, Place IQ and Google Mobility, on the location of American mobile devices from January to April 2020. The analysis found a 25 percentage point jump among the richest neighborhoods where residents chose to stay at home, with low-income neighborhoods just 10% more likely to be home than usual before the pandemic.

As the authors of the study note, this difference is likely due to the fact that usually among the poor there are more workers in enterprises whose activities are vital for the city, in addition, they have fewer opportunities to work from home. “There is an urgent need to determine whether – and to what extent – low-income communities are systematically at greater risk of contracting Covid-19. In general, the poor are already experiencing greater health consequences and less able to cope with economic shocks. This implies a “double burden” of the pandemic: communities with low incomes are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, while they are less likely to take social distancing measures, “the scientists write.

In their opinion, all this points to the need for the regions in which people with low incomes live to be in the spotlight, and the authorities should think about how to provide them with the opportunity to maintain social distance, quarantine and other measures necessary to combat the pandemic. “This is just a fraction of the data showing that poor areas are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19”, the researchers concluded.