Crowded Living Quarters – Not Density Itself – Increases Risk of COVID Hospitalization

Date Published: 
January 11th, 2023

A study published in the Journal of Housing Economics examines the relationship between density and COVID during three distinct waves of the pandemic in New York City. The authors use individual Medicaid claims records, which offer a wealth of demographic characteristics and pre-existing conditions among low-income New Yorkers.

The results suggest that living in higher-density neighborhoods or larger multifamily buildings did not heighten the risk of COVID hospitalization. However, the authors found significant, positive relationships between COVID hospitalization rates and household size. This suggests that crowded living quarters – which can occur at any level of population density – and not density itself increase the risk of COVID hospitalization. 

The authors also found a strong correlation between being unstably housed or living in institutional settings and COVID hospitalizations. Because housing conditions are consistently correlated with hospitalizations, the authors discuss how policymakers can target prevention tools for those living unstably or in large households.

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