46% of the deaths in the world were concentrated in the United States, Brazil and Mexico

Income inequality increases the number of Corona deaths

  • Trump and Bolsonaro are adding to the catastrophic costs of income inequality. Archives

  • The President of Mexico follows the example of Trump and Bolsonaro. Archives


Three countries in the world are the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, where about half of the world's deaths resulting from the Corona pandemic occurred, or 46% of the deaths, although they contain 8.6% of the world's population. Sixty percent of European deaths were concentrated in three European countries: Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, which have 38% of the European population. There were fewer deaths and lower rates of deaths in most northern and central European countries. There are several factors that determine the death rate of the Corona pandemic, such as the quality of political leadership, the coherence of the governmental response to the pandemic, the availability of suitable beds in hospitals, the rate of international travel, and the age structure of the people. But there is a deep structural feature that seems to determine the role of these factors, represented in: State income and wealth distribution among the people.

The United States, Mexico, and Brazil are characterized by wide disparities in inequality in the distribution of income and wealth. According to World Bank reports, the United States ranked in this field between 2016-2018 on the Gini index 41.4, Brazil came in at 53.2, and Mexico came in 45.9 (this index is a scale of 100 points. The point of 100 represents absolute inequality, where one person dominates. On all incomes and wealth in the state, as for the zero point, it means absolute equality in the distribution of wealth among members of society.)

America's Top

The United States has the highest Gini index among all developed countries, while Brazil and Mexico are among the most unequal countries in the world in the distribution of wealth. In Europe, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom come on the Gini index respectively 35.6, 35.3, and 34.8, which are less equal in the distribution of wealth than the northern and eastern European countries, such as Finland (27.3), Norway (28.5), and Denmark (28.5), Poland (30.5), and Hungary (30.5).

The relationship between death rates per million of the population and income inequality is bad, and there are several factors behind this. France and Germany are equal in income inequality, but the deaths of the Corona pandemic in France were much greater than what happened in Germany. The death rate in Sweden, which enjoys good income equality, was greater than in its neighboring countries, because Sweden decided not to impose a policy of compulsory social distancing on its population. Belgium, which is characterized by equal income, suffered a very high death rate, which was due to the authority's decision to report possible and confirmed deaths.

In many ways, high income disparity is a social scourge. The British researchers, Kate Beckett in her book "The Phantom Level" and Richard Wilkinson in his book "The Internal Level", said that the great disparity in the distribution of wealth leads to poor health conditions, which increases the possibility of infection with the Corona virus.

In addition, the great disparity in the distribution of wealth leads to a disturbance of social cohesion, reduced social confidence, and greater political polarization, all of which negatively affect the ability of governments and their willingness to adopt strong control measures. Of course, the great disparity in the distribution of wealth means the presence of a large number of workers with limited income, such as cleaning workers, guards, construction workers and factory workers, who must continue to work despite the Corona pandemic. The increase in income inequality also means that many people live in overcrowded conditions, which is why they cannot stay in a safe and healthy situation.

Populist leaders are compounding the heavy costs of income inequality. US President Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were elected by unequal, socially divided societies with the support of many disaffected working-class voters. But policy of discontent is the opposite of policy on controlling an epidemic. Discontent policy often eschews experts and belittles scientific evidence, and resents elites who work on the Internet to talk to workers who cannot stay at home during a pandemic.

Income variation

The United States is characterized by wide income disparity, it is politically divided, and it is poorly governed under President Trump's administration, which failed to prepare a coherent strategy to control the Corona epidemic. The blame was placed on states and local governments, which were left to face difficulties alone.

Brazil and Mexico have become imitators of US policy, as their officials mock the virus, despise expert advice, underestimate the risks, and refuse personal protection. Bolsonaro and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are leading their countries to a Trumpian disaster.

Unlike Canada, and a few other countries, the countries of North and South America suffer from a widespread spread of the Corona virus, because most of the western part of the world suffers from inequality in the distribution of wealth and income and racial discrimination. Even Chile, which has good governance, fell prey to violence and instability last year, as a result of chronic and high inequality in wealth distribution.

Certainly, inequality in income distribution is not a death sentence, as China suffers from inequality to some extent (and came on the Gini index of 38.5), but the national government of China and local governments adopted strong control measures after the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan to eliminate it, which was a result of the strong quarantine. And the tests are widespread.

But in most other countries, we are witnessing once again the enormous costs of income inequality, represented by weak governance, social division, in addition to the presence of a large number of people in a state of weakness and unable to protect themselves from infection with the virus.

Now the rich are working and making obscene profits (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made $ 49 billion in profits since the outbreak), while the poor lose their jobs, often their health, and their lives as well. The costs of inequality will surely increase as governments that have left no revenues cut back their budgets and the vital services they provide to the poor.

But the reckoning is coming, in the absence of coherent, capable and trustworthy governments that can implement strong and sustainable responses against the epidemic, and an economic strategy for recovery, the world will face more instability due to global crises.

Geoffrey Sachs: Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

- populist leaders exacerbate the high costs of income inequality. Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Boris Johnson were elected by unequal, socially divided societies with the support of many disaffected working-class voters.

The rich work and make obscene profits (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made $ 49 billion in profits since the outbreak of the epidemic), while the poor lose their jobs, often their health, and their lives as well. The costs of inequality are sure to increase.

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