Where You Live Determines How You Stay at Home

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We may be getting restless and annoyed, but the best way to fix the economy is to fix COVID-19 — and the best way to beat back coronavirus is to minimize contact with others as much as possible. For about one-quarter of American workers, that means staying home and setting up shop at the kitchen table. For everyone else, working life becomes a gambit between losing money and risking exposure to a deadly virus.

Economists at the University of California, Davis, have just published a study that should concern policymakers and ordinary people alike. Before the pandemic came to the United States, the researchers found, those living in the nation's wealthiest neighborhoods were the least likely to stay at home all day. When lockdown orders went into effect starting in March, however, that statistic flipped: Individuals living in poorer census tracts were more likely to leave the house every day, while those in the richest saw a 25-point increase in those staying completely at home.

"This is just one piece of a broader set of emerging results showing that lower-income neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable as the pandemic proceeds," said senior author Michael Springborn. While the study doesn't make any determinations about why this is, the researchers "note that lower-income communities tend to have more essential workers who also have less capacity to work at home compared to people in more affluent areas."

That said, the virus makes no distinction in who it infects based on income. Wherever you live, take every available precaution, no matter how often you go out or where — and if your elected representatives can help lower risks for everyone, give them a call to let them know how.