Americans living in poorer cities broke COVID-19 stay-at-home orders more than wealthy residents


Anonymous tracking data from 45 million smartphone users in the US shows Americans living in less affluent areas were unable to comply with stay-at-home orders at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

An international team of scientists found these individuals could not afford to stay at home or their profession was impossible to do from home.

Researchers analyzed data of residents in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Washington D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston and San Francisco spent at home in the period between January 2020 to August 2020.

New York residents were found to spend the most indoors, while those living in Phoenix and Chicago spent the least amount of time in their homes. 

The findings also show education is linked to compliance of lockdown orders – people who live in neighborhoods with a high percentage of college graduates tended to spend longer at home.

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An international team of scientists found these individuals could not afford to stay at home or their profession was impossible to do from home. This included people working in grocery stores

An international team of scientists found these individuals could not afford to stay at home or their profession was impossible to do from home. This included people working in grocery stores 

The study, published in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, ultimately uncovered that the coronavirus exposed social inequity in the US.  

Xiao Huang, Assistant Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas, said in a statement: ‘Our study reveals the luxury nature of stay-at-home orders, which lower-income groups cannot afford to comply with.

‘This disparity exacerbates long-standing social inequality issues present in the United States, potentially causing unequal exposure to a virus that disproportionately affects vulnerable populations.’

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Each of the 12 major cities ‘presents its own unique pattern, revealing the discrepancy in mitigation measures and the inconsistency in responses following these measures,’ researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers analyzed data of residents in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Washington D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston and San Francisco spent at home in the period between January 2020 to August 2020

Researchers analyzed data of residents in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Washington D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston and San Francisco spent at home in the period between January 2020 to August 2020

New York residents were found to spend the most indoors, while those living in Phoenix and Chicago spent the least amount of time in their homes. The findings also show education is linked to compliance of lockdown orders

New York residents were found to spend the most indoors, while those living in Phoenix and Chicago spent the least amount of time in their homes. The findings also show education is linked to compliance of lockdown orders

For example, those living in New York, on average, spent six hours more at home under the stay-at-home order.

While residents of Phoenix, Arizona spent less than 200 minutes – a scenario also observed in Houston and Chicago.

The team also looked at residents in the UK and found similar results – those in more deprived and ethnically diverse communities are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that those living in the most deprived neighborhoods have been more than twice as likely to die from COVID as those in the least deprived. One of the reasons for this is thought to be that low-income workers typically have jobs that cannot be done from home, placing them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

They are also more likely to have insecure ‘zero hours’ contracts, making them worry that if they do not go into work they might not have a job to return to.

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The authors of the study argue that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable groups from the effects of COVID.

‘We must confront systemic social inequality and call for a high-priority assessment of the long-term impact of COVID-19 on geographically and socially disadvantaged groups,’ Huang, the study’s lead author, said.

The pandemic, which started in Wuhan, China and spread around the globe, forced lawmakers around the globe to shutter businesses and place people under various forms of lockdown.



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