ATLANTA—COVID-19 testing and vaccination policies that focus on “hot spot” neighborhoods will better serve the virus’s hardest-hit populations, particularly minorities and the elderly, according to a study from the University of New Orleans and Georgia State University.
In the study, Eric Joseph van Holm, Christopher Wyczalkowski and Prentiss Dantzler analyze coronavirus case counts at the census-tract level and examine their relationship with pre-existing neighborhood socioeconomic conditions. They find a strong positive relationship between the percent of the minority population and COVID-19 cases, even when holding socioeconomic and structural factors constant.
After testing for the impact of proximity, travel, socioeconomic status and race on the level of coronavirus present at the neighborhood level, the authors found race, poverty and age have the most consistent effect on the size of COVID-19 outbreaks. The share of Blacks and Hispanics in a neighborhood are a significant predictor for the size of the outbreak per capita.
Their findings support most media reporting on the problem and add to the mounting evidence of how the virus has disproportionately affected minorities and their communities.
“Neighborhoods have long been found to affect an individual’s health based on factors like walkability or residential segregation,” van Holm said. “Thus, neighborhood effects beg considerable attention as health professionals and policymakers respond to COVID-19.”
Several mechanisms the authors found may explain why minorities – African Americans in particular – are more likely to live in areas with higher counts, including a potentially greater reliance on public transit, higher housing densities, higher rates of poverty and lack of access to health insurance. An earlier study showed no significant difference between the races with regard to trips taken, social distancing, hand washing and other associated behaviors.
“A virus is not motivated by racial animus,” Dantzler said. “The heightened impacts of COVID on minorities is evidence of the way American society shapes the lives and environments of different groups, putting minority communities at greater risk. To fully understand the causes of the COVID-19 outbreak in minority communities, researchers will have to grapple with the cumulative impact of economic, social and spatial inequities throughout society.”
Urban Studies Institute
Prentiss Dantzler is an Assistant Professor in the Urban Studies Institute. Currently, Prentiss’ research is focused on 4 projects: 1) racial capitalism and urban development processes, 2) housing assistance and neighborhood change across the Toronto metro area, 3) the role of nonprofit organizations in shaping gentrification narratives, and 4) equitable housing policies in local comprehensive planning.
Urban Studies Institute
Dr. Wyczalkowski is the Manager of Research and Analysis at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and affiliate faculty with the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University. Chris is an urban policy scholar with research interests related to public transportation, mobility, and the interaction of society with the evolving urban environment. His current research agenda is focused on the effects of transportation systems on neighborhood change, particularly micromobility, and disaster recovery.