BY Fast Company South Africa 2 MINUTE READ

The eggheads at Johns Hopkins University wanted to know which groups practice social distancing the most—and their findings are not politically correct: Rich women, it turns out, are far more dependable with the masks and hand washing and social distancing than everyone else.

The economists studied 6,000 people across six countries, and found that peek social distancers have individual incomes around US$230,000 a year—you know, wealthy but not riding out lockdowns in their own chateaus. They are substantially (54%) more likely to practice safe COVID-19 behaviors than low-income people.

“We need to understand these differences because we can wring our hands, and we can blame and shame, but in a way it doesn’t matter,” said co-author Nick Papageorge, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, in a news release. “Policymakers just need to recognise who is going to socially distance, for how long, why and under what circumstances to give us accurate predictions of how the disease will spread and help us establish policies that will be useful.”

Excellent social distancing, it turns out, tends to come hand-in-hand with two factors: teleworking and homes with access to outdoor space, both of which are much more prevalent among the upper classes. Overall, social distancing was found to be more “practical, comfortable and feasible” for higher earners, who could easily do things like order groceries or change their work schedule.

Women continue to be the superior gender when it comes to not hurling themselves in the path of COVID-19: They were 23% more likely to social distance than men, according to the study.

If you’re hoping that most people are generally following lockdown guidelines, think again: “Policies that assume universal compliance with self-protective measures—or that otherwise do not account for socioeconomic differences in the costs of doing so—are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.”


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