DP14673 Covid-19: Testing Inequality in New York City

Author(s): Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé, Ken Teoh, Martin Uribe
Publication Date: April 2020
Keyword(s): Coronavirus, Covid-19 testing, Gini coefficient, health, income distribution, inequality, Lorenz curves
JEL(s): I14, R1
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14673

Motivated by reports in the media suggesting unequal access to Covid-19 testing across incomes, we analyze zip-code level data on the number of Covid-19 tests, test results, and income per capita in New York City. We find that the number of tests administered is evenly distributed across income levels. In particular, the test distribution across income levels is significantly more egalitarian than the distribution of income itself: The ten percent of the city's population living in the richest zip codes received 11 percent of the Covid-19 tests and 29 percent of the city's income. The ten percent of the city's population living in the poorest zip codes received 10 percent of the tests but only 4 percent of the city's income. At the same time, we find significant disparity in the fraction of tests that come back negative for the Covid-19 disease across income levels: moving from the poorest zip codes to the richest zip codes is associated with an increase in the fraction of negative Covid-19 test results from 38 to 65 percent.