Rich people up to 54% more likely to follow social distancing rules

Richest people are 54 PER CENT more likely to follow social distancing rules than those earning £10,000 a year or less, study finds

  • US experts surveyed more than 1,000 adults about their pandemic behaviours
  • The higher your income, the more likely you are to take protective measures
  • These included wearing face masks, social distancing and working from home
  • Lower-income workers can find it harder to follow the rules, the team explained 
  • For example, they are more likely to have jobs that cannot be done remotely

The richest members of the population are 54 per cent more likely to keep their distance from others during the pandemic than the poorest among us, a study said.

Researchers from the US surveyed more than 1,000 adults in California, Florida, New York and Texas about the measures they had taken to protect against COVID-19.

The poll was part of a larger study exploring responses to the pandemic across six countries: the US, the UK, China, Italy, Japan and Korea.

The team concluded that those with higher incomes were more likely to take steps against the virus — like social distancing, wearing masks and working from home. 

Those with a lower incomes can find it harder to take many of these actions, the team said — for example, they may have jobs that cannot be done from home.

The researchers said they hope that authorities can use their findings to better predict the spread of pandemic diseases and refine regulations accordingly. 

The richest members of the population are 54 per cent more likely to keep their distance from others during the pandemic than the poorest among us, a study said

‘We need to understand these differences because we can wring our hands, and we can blame and shame, but in a way it doesn’t matter,’ said paper author and economist Nicholas Papageorge of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

‘Policymakers just need to recognize who is going to socially distance, for how long, why and under what circumstances to give us accurate predictions of how the disease will spread and help us establish policies that will be useful.’

Of those polled in the study, the vast majority reported changing their behaviour to protect themselves and others — but those with the most money were found to make the most changes.

The team found that, compared to the average person, the top fifth of earners — who together had an average annual income of around £172,000 ($233,895) — were 32 per cent more likely increase the amount of social distance they have others. 

Similarly, they were 30 per cent more likely to wear a face mask and increase their frequency of hand washing in response to the pandemic.

It can be easier for the better-paid to adapt their behaviour to the public health crisis, the researchers said, as they are more likely to have white collar or senior management jobs where they can work from home, for instance.

Poorer adults may also live in flats with no access to a garden, or in inner cities with little access to green spaces, where they can isolate — while their work in factories, shops or building sites may force them into close proximity with others.

‘The whole messaging of this pandemic is you’re stuck at home teleworking, that must be really tough so here are some recipes for sourdough starter, and here’s what you should catch up on Netflix,’ said Professor Papageorge.

‘But what about the people who aren’t teleworking? What are they going to do?’

The team found that those who worked from home were 24 per cent more likely to follow the rules, while those with a garden were 20 per cent more likely.

‘It’s not shocking that if you don’t live in a comfortable house you’re going to be leaving your house more often,’ Professor Papageorge added. 

‘But the point we want to push is that if I’m a policy maker maybe I really need to think about opening city parks in a dense neighbourhood during a pandemic.’

‘Maybe that’s something that’s worth the risk. This is why we want to understand these details — they can eventually suggest policies.’

The research also found that women were 23 per cent more likely than men to socially distance — but that those with pre-existing health conditions, surprisingly, were no more or less likely to take self-protective measures.

The full findings of the study were published in the Journal of Population Economics.

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