A Poorly Understood Disease? The Impact of COVID-19 on the Income Gradient in Mortality over the Course of the Pandemic

Paul Brandily, Clement Brebion, Simon Briole, Laura Khoury

Research output: Working paperResearch


Mortality inequalities remain substantial in many countries, and large shocks such as pandemics could amplify them further. The unequal distribution of COVID-19 confirmed cases suggests that this is the case. Yet, evidence on the causal effect of the epidemic on mortality inequalities remains scarce. In this paper, we exploit exhaustive municipality-level data in France, one of the most severely hit country in the world, to identify a negative relationship between income and excess mortality within urban areas, that persists over COVID-19 waves. Over the year 2020, the poorest municipalities experienced a 30% higher increase in excess mortality. Our analyses can rule out the contribution of policy responses (such as lockdown) in this heterogeneous impact. Finally, we show that both labour-market exposure and housing conditions are major determinants of the direct effect of the epidemic on mortality inequalities, but that their respective role depends on the state of the epidemic.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherParis School of Economics
Number of pages66
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes
SeriesWorking Paper / Paris School of Economics
Number2020 - 44


  • COVID-19
  • Poverty
  • Inequality
  • Mortality
  • Labor market
  • Housing conditions

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