With the first anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic about a month away, researchers are delving into why some areas fared better than others.
One recently published paper measured the relationship of social capital – trust, norms, personal networks, the strength of families, philanthropic efforts, etc. – to efforts to limit the spread of the virus. The findings were first outlined by the Washington Post.
Researchers used a social capital index that came out of the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and compared it to Covid-19 metrics. (In the accompanying map, areas in red have the highest social capital index, with yellow and white having the lowest).
The findings of Christos Makridis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cary Wu of Canada’s York University indicated high social capital often translated into a better response to the virus.
In general, the northern tier of states fared better than their counterparts to the south when it came to social capital rankings. Residents in portions of New England and the Upper Midwest often have greater trust in neighbors and institutions. Smaller populations also help limit spread.
While Delaware is sometimes described as a state of neighbors, it ranked a disappointing 34th on the social capital index. Delaware’s death rate is comparable to that of Florida, another state with a low social capital index, according to a death rate ranking from Becker’s Hospital Review.
Delaware had a modestly higher rate of coronavirus deaths than Maryland, a state with a higher social capital index.
Neighboring Pennsylvania came in with. a higher social capital ranking than Delaware but had areas with low social capital ratings.
The battleground state did have its share of controversies over measures aimed at limiting spread. That may have contributed to a higher death rate than in neighboring Delaware.
New Jersey, which has the highest rate of coronavirus deaths, had a lower rate of deaths rates in the more lightly populated southern portion of the state. No. 2, New York had a low social capital ranking and a high death rate.
Despite their higher social capital rankings, Wisconsin and the Dakotas ended up with higher death rates than Delaware despite a more elevated social capital index. The likely culprit was skepticism over the need to wear masks or restrict seating at bars and restaurants by residents, governors, and legislators.
In the meantime, Minnesota, which had less political turmoil related to the virus, had a lower rate.
The findings and death rates provide more evidence that Delaware’s response to Covid, saved lives. Whether the economic cost was too high is a topic for another day.- DougRainey, chief content officer.