Nicholas W. Papageorge, Matthew Zahn, Michèle Belot, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Syngjoo Choi, Julian C. Jamison, Egon Tripodi, 05 September 2020

Individual behaviours affect the spread of infectious disease. This column examines factors that predict individual behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US using novel survey data. People with lower income and less flexible work arrangements are less likely to engage in behaviours that limit the spread of disease. The burden of measures to stem the pandemic is unevenly distributed across socio-demographic groups in ways that affect behaviour and potentially the spread of illness. Policies that assume otherwise are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.

John McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Li Yang, Filip Novokmet, Branko Milanovic, 09 October 2019

The historically unprecedented economic and social transformation in China over the past four decades has seen urban areas becoming much richer, but also much more unequal. This column analyses changes in the Chinese urban elite. It finds that, compared to the 1980s, the elite today consists mainly of professionals, self-employed, and smaller and larger business people, they are much better educated, and they receive a much greater share of total urban income. This is reflected also in the composition of the Communist Party of China.

Kacie Dragan, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Sherry Glied, 19 September 2019

The pace of gentrification in US cities has accelerated, but little evidence exists on its impact on low-income children. This column uses Medicaid claims data to examine how gentrification affects children’s health and wellbeing in New York City. It finds that low-income children born in areas that gentrify are no more likely to move than those born in areas that don't gentrify, and those that do move tend to end up living in areas of lower poverty. Moreover, gentrification does not appear to dramatically alter the health status or health-system utilisation of children by age 9–11, although children growing up in gentrifying areas show somewhat elevated levels of anxiety and depression.

Thomas Cornelissen, Christian Dustmann, 08 June 2019

Primary education starts at age 6 or 7 in most OECD countries, but in the UK children start primary school at the age of 4 or 5. This column exploits local variation in school entry rules in the UK to investigate the effects of schooling at an early age on cognitive and non-cognitive development. It finds that early schooling boosts both cognitive and non-cognitive skills up until the age of 11. These effects tend to be strongest for boys from disadvantaged family backgrounds.

Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, Ludger Woessmann, 15 April 2019

For 50 years, anti-poverty government programmes in the US have focused on improving school outcomes for poor children. This column reports new evidence that, contrary to recent thinking that gaps in student achievement by socioeconomic status have increased over the years, the gaps have been essentially flat over the past half-century. New policies and new approaches seem called for if we wish to lessen these gaps.

Thor Berger, Per Engzell, 28 March 2019

There are striking regional variations in economic opportunity across the US. This column proposes a historical explanation for this, showing that local levels of income equality and intergenerational mobility in the US resemble those of the European countries that current inhabitants trace their origins from. The findings point to the persistence of differences in local culture, norms, and institutions.

Seth Zimmerman, 08 October 2018

Graduates of top universities hold a large share of leadership positions in big firms. At the same time, elite universities are aiming to expand access to middle- and low-income students. Yet, it is unclear whether the benefits of attending top universities accrue to students from poor backgrounds. This column examines new evidence from Chile and finds that admission to highly selective, business-focused degree programmes has very large effects on the rates at which male students from wealthy backgrounds attain top jobs and incomes, but little or no effect for female students and non-wealthy male students.

Brandon Dupont, Joshua Rosenbloom, 19 June 2016

The long-run persistence of social and economic status has received substantial attention from economists of late. But the impact of economic and political shocks on this persistence has yet to be thoroughly explored. This column examines the disruptions from the US Civil War on the Southern wealth distribution. Results suggest that an entrenched southern planter elite retained their economic status after the war. However, the turmoil of the decade opened mobility opportunities for Southerners of more modest means, especially compared with the North.

Janet Currie, 19 July 2008

What explains the poverty trap? This column summarises a vast array of evidence on the relationship between parents’ socioeconomic status, children’s health, and children’s future socioeconomic outcomes. Poverty worsens childhood health, which leads to adulthood poverty. Focusing on young mothers’ health and wellbeing could break the cycle.

Christopher J. Ruhm, 10 September 2007

Obesity at the individual level is a medical problem, but the rapid rise in global obesity is a policy problem. Research on US data shows that the obesity is inversely related to a variety of measures of social and economic advantage. One important factor is years of maternal education, but much of the link between socioeconomic factors and obesity remains unexplained.

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