Social distancing is more likely if you have money

(Credit: Al/Flickr)

A survey finds that liquid assets increased the likelihood that a person in the United States could practice social distancing.

“Social distancing is a privilege that comes with resources and wealth, but wealth is not distributed equally in America,” says Michal Grinstein-Weiss, professor and director of the Social Policy Institute (SPI) at Washington University in St. Louis. “Wealth gives individuals agency to make choices, like social distancing, that keep themselves and their families healthy.”

The SPI interviewed approximately 5,500 respondents from all 50 US states from April 27 to May 12.

“Lower liquid assets leave people in a position of choosing income over social distance safety,” Grinstein-Weiss says. “As money increases, affordability to social distance increases.”

Survey respondents also revealed other significant loss and hardships as a result of the pandemic. The survey finds that:

  • Low- and moderate-income households delayed major housing payments and health care;
  • Hispanic/Latinx homeowners were more than twice as likely (14.1%) to be evicted than non-Hispanic white (6.4%) and five times as likely as non-Hispanic Black (2.6%) homeowners, despite moratoriums on some evictions;
  • Job loss most affected Hispanic/Latinx (27%) and low-income individuals (29%);
  • One in three gig workers reported working less as a result of the pandemic, and 86% of those individuals said gig income was essential or important to their household budget;
  • and 34% of people who lost their job reported food insecurity.

“While it’s too early to draw conclusions about long-term impacts of the virus, we know that it’s exacerbating situations for households already experiencing financial vulnerability, wealth inequalities, and health inequities,” Grinstein-Weiss says.

They presented their data during a virtual event called “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Racial, Gender, and Generational Wealth Gaps,” co-hosted with the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Data suggest that the pandemic may exacerbate underlying inequalities, Grinstein-Weiss says.

“Understanding the wealth gap is important, but more critically we need to design policies that enable people to build wealth as the economy recovers,” she says.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis