Coronavirus disparities in Palestine and in Michigan

I wanted to share two articles that were sent to me recently, one focusing on data collection and one focusing on data analysis.

On the International Statistical Institute blog, Ola Awad writes:

The Palestinian economy is micro — with the majority of establishments employing less than 10 workers, and the informal sector making up about a third of the economy. It is primarily a service-based economy, and also a consumer-based economy with a consumption rate of about 116% of the gross domestic product. . . . Those most affected are the most vulnerable sectors of society such us Palestinians living in refugee camps[3] and in Area C. This area is home to an estimated 180,000-300,000 Palestinians who are suffering from demolitions and forced evictions that deprive people of their homes and disrupt livelihoods, leading to entrenched poverty and increased dependence on aid. . . .

About 29% of those employed in the private sector receive less than the minimum wage (1,450 NIS = USD 426 per month), and to make matters worse — 57% of the employed are considered informal employees, meaning they do not receive formal basic work rights such as employment contracts, paid leave, sick leave or social retirement.

The fragile economy faced even more tragic conditions after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Palestine and the rest of the world. . . . During the lock-down, face-to-face data collection was no longer an option and we had to come up with creative ways like hand held devices, phones, and the use of registers when available. We also performed a rapid assessment to offer real time data capturing the effect of the pandemic. . . . It is vital for governments to have data on the most marginalized groups which are expected to fall deeper into vulnerability due to the pandemic. In Palestine, this includes women heading households, workers of the informal sector, and workers at Israeli settlements, refugees, and the population in Area C. . . .

Those most affected are the most vulnerable sectors of society such us Palestinians living in refugee camps[3] and in Area C. This area is home to an estimated 180,000-300,000 Palestinians who are suffering from demolitions and forced evictions that deprive people of their homes and disrupt livelihoods, leading to entrenched poverty and increased dependence on aid. . . . The lockdown has widened the poverty gap. Families who were on the edge are falling into poverty, leading to the emergence of new groups of poor people, especially in refugee camps and Area C. Around 109,000 women working in the private sector have lost their jobs due to closure measures. . . .

Meanwhile, at the University of Michigan, Jon Zelner, Rob Trangucci, Ramya Naraharisetti, Alex Cao, Ryan Malosh, Kelly Broen, Nina Masters, Paul Delamater write:

Racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality are driven by unequal infection risks.

Geographic, racial-ethnic, age and socioeconomic disparities in exposure and mortality are key features of the first and second wave of the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic. We used individual-level COVID-19 incidence and mortality data from the U.S. state of Michigan to estimate age-specific incidence and mortality rates by race/ethnic group. Data were analyzed using hierarchical Bayesian regression models [using rstanarm], and model results were validated using posterior predictive checks. In crude and age-standardized analyses we found rates of incidence and mortality more than twice as high than Whites for all groups other than Native Americans. Of these, Blacks experienced the greatest burden . . . We also found that the bulk of the disparity in mortality between Blacks and Whites is driven by dramatically higher rates of COVID-19 infection across all age groups, particularly among older adults, rather than age-specific variation in case-fatality rates. Interpretation. This work suggests that well-documented racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality in hard-hit settings, such as the U.S. state of Michigan, are driven primarily by variation in household, community and workplace exposure rather than case-fatality rates.