Hello World!

This site is an attempt to bring some of my different posts in different social media and blogs that I want to preserve in one place, and to present new material on economics, photography, and whatever else interests me.

Who am I? The signatures of the posts here say I am “cogiddo”. This is an amusing (to me, at least) bit of wordplay I invented years ago, inserting my initials “dd” into the “cogito” of the famous Descartes saying cogito ergo sum. The name you would know me by in real life, however, is Dimitrios Diamantaras. More information on the About page.

This post will stay in top position. Please scroll down for every other post. To see all my posts in the “Economics” category, you can visit this page; for “Photography”, this page, and so on. The Categories are shown on the right.

The new versions of COVID-19 are no joke

This is worrisome and everybody should know about it.

Tweet posted yesterday by Dr. Farid Jalali. Text: “To borrow an infamous phrase: I don’t know how to put this in a half-acceptable way. New Omicron variants are actively killing vaccinated and recently boosted 60-70 year-olds with very average comorbidites, as we speak. It’s a bog-standard medical reality in our hospitals.”

A good Twitter thread on COVID-19, inequality, morbidity, and vaccines

I just read the thread that starts with this tweet: https://twitter.com/thrasherxy/status/1524780425847181312?s=21&t=g7F-ikgMkS9so5zKI7PbHQ by Dr. Thrasher.

When I read the first tweet, I immediately saw “base-rate fallacy” flash in front of my eyes. It turned out not to be this at all. I recommend the thread, all of it, and some thinking about the malignant combination of inequality with the COVID-19 pandemic. (Others have discussed the insidious effects of inequality on the pandemic, of course. I am putting together some of those discussions and research for my materials for the economic inequality course I teach and the book on it I am drafting.)

I fear that our society, here in the U.S., is so committed to ignoring the importance of public goods, such as public health measures that mitigate infectious-disease transmission, that it is simply unable to deal with this pandemic effectively. As a result, we will probably see years of mutating Coronaviruses of the SARS-COVID variety, and will be consistently responding the wrong way to their emergence.

(I could of course have responded on Twitter, but I have decided to use this blog more and Twitter less for discussions like this. I am letting this be auto-tweeted, though. I may cease contributing to Twitter at all, depending of how big a mess EM makes of it once it is under his control.)

Income Inequality and COVID-19

It has been a very long time since I last made a post here. I am coming back with a post about the relationship between income inequality and COVID-19.

The latest issue of The Economist has an article on this topic, which led me to three recent studies about this relationship and an interesting Twitter thread. (Do watch out for the careless conflation of wealth with income in the second tweet in the thread.) I will say a few words for each of the three studies. Before I do that, I need to issue the disclaimer that I am not a statistician or an econometrician, therefore I cannot, and will not, claim to evaluate the appropriateness of the statistical modeling in these studies.

Let’s start with “Association Between Income Inequality and County-Level COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US”, by Annabel X. Tan, MPH; Jessica A. Hinman, MS; Hoda S. Abdel Magid, PhD; Lorene M. Nelson, PhD, MS; Michelle C. Odden, PhD, from JAMA Network Open, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.8799. The authors collected data on COVID cases and deaths for a year (2020-03-01 to 2021-02-28), as well income inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) for 3220 counties in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and DC. Their main finding was a positive correlation between income inequality and COVID cases and deaths, which was most pronounced in the summer of 2020. Several additional variables were included as controls, such as the poverty rate, age, race, mask use, crowding, educational level, urban versus rural population share, and availability of physicians. I find it remarkable that income inequality showed up as correlated with COVID cases and deaths in the presence of all these additional variables that one would expect to be more strongly correlated with COVID outcomes.

Next, we’ll talk about “COVID‐19 and income inequality in OECD countries” by John Wildman, The European Journal of Health Economics (2021) 22:455–462 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10198-021-01266-4. The COVID variables are cumulative deaths per million and recorded daily cases per million in the early months of the pandemic. In the words of the author, “The results demonstrate a significant positive association between income inequality and COVID-19 cases and death per million in all estimated models. A 1% increase in the Gini coefficient is associated with an approximately 4% increase in cases per-million and an approximately 5% increase in deaths per-million.” The author proposes that income inequality is a proxy for other variables that correlate with bad COVID outcomes, such as “poor housing, smoking, obesity and pollution.”

Finally, let’s take a look at “The trouble with trust: Time-series analysis of social capital, income inequality, and COVID-19 deaths in 84 countries” by Frank J. Elgar, Anna Stefaniak, and Michael J.A. Wohl, Social Science & Medicine 263 (2020) 113365. Here is the abstract of the paper:

Can social contextual factors explain international differences in the spread of COVID-19? It is widely assumed that social cohesion, public confidence in government sources of health information and general concern for the welfare of others support health advisories during a pandemic and save lives. We tested this assumption through a time-series analysis of cross-national differences in COVID-19 mortality during an early phase of the pandemic. Country data on income inequality and four dimensions of social capital (trust, group affiliations, civic re- sponsibility and confidence in public institutions) were linked to data on COVID-19 deaths in 84 countries. Associations with deaths were examined using Poisson regression with population-averaged estimators. During a 30-day period after recording their tenth death, mortality was positively related to income inequality, trust and group affiliations and negatively related to social capital from civic engagement and confidence in state in- stitutions. These associations held in bivariate and mutually controlled regression models with controls for population size, age and wealth. The results indicate that societies that are more economically unequal and lack capacity in some dimensions of social capital experienced more COVID-19 deaths. Social trust and belonging to groups were associated with more deaths, possibly due to behavioural contagion and incongruence with physical distancing policy. Some countries require a more robust public health response to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19 due to economic and social divisions within them.

I find these papers extremely interesting, and I want to make them part of my economic inequality course. You could say that this post is my very rough first reaction, simply noting the main conclusions of this research, conclusions that point out a clear connection between income inequality and the COVID-19 pandemic outcomes.