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UC Davis Study Shows It's Harder For Low-Income Families To Social Distance

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Wealthy people have an easier time staying home and social distancing, while low-income families bear the brunt of exposure, a UC Davis study found.

It's not a surprising conclusion, but UC Davis researchers were able to quantify it in a new study using cellphone location data. Researchers were able to track people for several months.

The study did not conclude for certain why low-income people are more exposed, but the general explanation is that more of them have jobs that require them to be there in person. It also found the poorest communities have the least ability to stay home.

"I can't do that, I got bills to pay. I've got rent to pay," said Patricia Juarez, an Uber driver in Sacramento.

Possible exposure happens on the job every day.

"They say for us to wear our masks and stuff which is fine and everything. I get a lot of riders that don't wear their masks," Juarez said.

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For many, having to physically show up to work is a necessary risk.

"I honestly feel grateful to have a job and still be able to pay my bills," said Dominique Holder.

When the pandemic hit, UC Davis researchers said people in the wealthiest communities were 15% more likely to stay home. This is people with an average yearly income above $100,000 compared to people making less than $25,000

"I feel like it's one more piece of evidence that we have that the impact on lower-income communities is disproportionate," said Michael Springborn, an author of the study and professor of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis.

Springborn said researchers used cellphone locations to track how people socially distanced.

"Essentially, how many different sites is it going to, how many other mobile devices are visiting those same sites," he said.

Springborn hopes this study helps low-income communities get the aid they need.

"There's a real argument there for making sure that they are a priority in terms of how the vaccine is prioritized," he said.

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