Adding fuel to the fire? Inequality and the spread of COVID-19

Working Paper Date:
Category: Economic Analysis and Policy, Financing for Development, Social Development
Author: Helena Afonso and Sebastian Vergara
Document Symbol: ST/ESA/2022/DWP/178
Keywords: Inequality, COVID-19, panel regression
Working Paper File:
wp178_2022.pdf 622.23 KB

The pandemic has progressed differently across the world. Using monthly data on COVID-19 cases and fatalities, we evaluate whether income inequality is an important factor in explaining cross-country differences in the spread and mortality of the virus. The results show that income inequality is positively correlated with the number of COVID-19 cases. Higher income inequality is associated with a more rapid spread of the virus and an increase in the number of cases, indirectly increasing mortality rates as well. Also, higher levels of inequality are associated with reduced effectiveness of social distancing measures in containing new infections. Thus, elevated inequalities place societies in a more vulnerable position to confront this pandemic, and more unequal countries would need more robust public responses to contain the spread of the virus.