Most Unvaccinated Americans are Poor

Almost everyone in households making over $75,000 are protected from COVID.

Axios’ Bob Herman reports that “More than half of unvaccinated Americans live in households that make less than $50,000 annually, according to the latest Census Bureau data.” Here’s the visual:

Herman’s analysis:

Why it matters: Making it easier for the working poor to get the COVID-19 vaccine, without dinging their already-low incomes, could help boost the country’s vaccination rates.

The big picture: Vaccination has been politicized, but juggling work schedules and child care could be bigger factors than politics.”A lot of low-income workers are working hard to provide food and housing,” said Julia Raifman, a health policy professor at Boston University. “That may mean it’s hard for them to find a time to get vaccinated.”

Workers also may worry about having to take unpaid time off if they come down with any vaccine side effects. Raifman has heard anecdotal stories of employees receiving less favorable hours if they miss work.

[…]

The bottom line: Most low-income workers still want to get vaccinated. It’s just not always easy. Almost two-thirds of unvaccinated people who make less than $50,000 still say they either “definitely” or “probably” will get the vaccine, according to the Census Bureau.

The Joyner household certainly comports with this pattern. The six of us who are eligible, including my 12-year-old daughter, are fully vaccinated. The lone holdout is my 10-year-old, who is ineligible.

The linked Census data consists of a series of Excel spreadsheets and I don’t have time to dig into the polling data. While I’m skeptical that fear of missed income is the chief explanatory variable here, it’s certainly quite plausible that it explains a meaningful chunk of those who aren’t vaccinated.

Given that we’re giving out trillions willy-nilly, compensating those who have to miss work in order to get their shots would certainly seem like a wise investment. And this is yet another datum in support of the proposition that our healthcare system is a mess.

Hat tip: Taegan Goddard

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Economics and Business, Public Opinion Polls, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. George says:

    Class (financial) matters everywhere. Its interesting how even the Democrats seem to have forgotten that.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    I’m not sure I understand what the takeaway from this is. The median household income in the US is $78K. A chart showing the percentage of people vaccinated in each income group would reveal a lot more.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    I wonder if we could send out the vaccine equivalent of a bookmobile to stop at businesses and give an opportunity for people to get vaccinated. Or right near houses/flats.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    A chart showing the percentage of people vaccinated in each income group would reveal a lot more.

    I’m not sure I follow. Isn’t that what this chart shows?

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  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It would be useful to see those unvaccinated, in the lower income levels, correlated with states they reside in.
    The poorest states are, generally speaking, Red States.
    Also, poor people throughout the South absolutely love them some Fat Orange Cheeto Man.
    I don’t think you can separate income levels and politics, as is the attempt here.
    I’d be happy to be proved wrong, but I’d like to see a more broad-based analysis.

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  6. EddieInCA says:

    I bet a Venn diagram with this exact information shown against education level, would reveal a HUGE overlap. I’m guessing the less educated you are, the more likely you are to not be vaccinated.

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  7. charon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The chart shows the pct of all the people vaccinated that falls into each group.

    But what about the pct of each group that is vaccinated? That strikes me as more informative.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    The Joyner household certainly comports with this pattern. The six of us who are eligible, including my 12-year-old daughter, are fully vaccinated. The lone holdout is my 10-year-old, who is ineligible.

    You clearly need to raise your 10-year-old’s allowance to $75,000/yr. The numbers don’t lie.

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  9. Joe says:

    @grumpy realist:

    we could send out the vaccine equivalent of a bookmobile to stop at businesses and give an opportunity for people to get vaccinated. . . .

    I suppose you are next going to suggest they could knock on people’s doors to offer the vaccine and all the faccist, police-state tactics that entails!

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  10. gVOR08 says:

    That is, indeed, a confusing graphic.

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The poorest states are, generally speaking, Red States.
    Also, poor people throughout the South absolutely love them some Fat Orange Cheeto Man.

    But the poor in Red states, and Blue states, are disproportionally minority. Who are not fond of Cheeto. The point to the Axios article is garbled.

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  11. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: What Charon said. 22% of the people in households making less than $25K annually are unvaccinated. If 22% of the households in the US make less than $25K then those people are simply average.

    Before responding above I tried finding recent statistics for how many households fall into each category but a ten minute Google did me no good. And, given inflation, out of date data doesn’t help. For example, in 2009, 40% of US households make less than $25K, but I doubt that is true 12 years later.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @EddieInCA: @charon: The data are in an Excel spreadsheet (Heath, Table 5) at this link. It’s complicated to parse. It is in fact broken down to the state level but not in a way I can easily make use of.

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  13. KM says:

    Vaccination has been politicized, but juggling work schedules and child care could be bigger factors than politics.” A lot of low-income workers are working hard to provide food and housing

    Here’s the thing: you don’t have a lot of free time when poor or working poor, especially if you take care of other human beings. That’s never going to change. You need to *make* something a priority or it’s not gonna happen as time slips away due to minor crisis or just plain fatigue. These individuals are not making it a priority to be vaxxed because they’ve decided to use their precious free time for something else. Understandable but not a valid excuse. It’s freely available in many places people normally have to go anyway like grocery stores or drugstores so even travel/ distance has been virtually eliminated as an excuse. It’s still a choice since if you want it to happen, you’ll go out of your way to do so. Instead, it’s just become something they’ll do in the nebulous future when it’s “easier” or they’ve “got time”.

    Here’s two follow-up question: how much free time do you have per week? How much of that spare time is used on entertainment such as TV or going out? If you can cram going to the bar or going out with friends into your schedule, you have time to vax. If you can head to the grocery store or drugstore to get stuff, you’re there and have time to vax. I’m willing to bet there was time and opportunity but not willpower as there was always something better to do or “more important” to accomplish. The sense of urgency isn’t there. Willingness to vax at some point before the heat death of the universe =/= ambition to make it happen now, especially if it’s not convenient.

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  14. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It would be useful to see those unvaccinated, in the lower income levels, correlated with states they reside in.
    The poorest states are, generally speaking, Red States.

    I don’t think we should dismiss the amount of unvaccinated folks residing in the poorer areas of Blue Cities (and Red Cities for that matter). Part of the problem that public health folks have been pointing out is access to vaccination sites which could be miles away from where someone lives. If the city has a crappy public transportation infrastructure and grocery/pharmacy deserts, then it can take hours to get to a vaccination site and back.

    Which gets to:
    @grumpy realist:

    I wonder if we could send out the vaccine equivalent of a bookmobile to stop at businesses and give an opportunity for people to get vaccinated.

    In a lot of BIPoC communities, there has been a growing move towards this, including,*gasp* going door to door to provide information and, with permissions, shots. This is a great example of taking the burden off folks and shifting it onto governments or CBOs.

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  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    While I’m skeptical that fear of missed income is the chief…

    I suspect that it’s been a long time since you paid a $9o0/month rent (for a one bedroom in a low-income housing site, mind you) from a ~$1400/month net salary. It’s even harder if you need more apartment because you have kids but don’t have more income. I have no problem believing fear of missed income at all. I rode the bus, starting at 4 am, for 2 1/2 hours to my workplace on a day my car was in the shop because I needed the income a while ago. My thanks from my boss for getting there was to tell me that if I was ever late again, he’d “fire my worthless ass.”

    I have no problem believing it.

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  16. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:

    I don’t think we should dismiss the amount of unvaccinated folks residing in the poorer areas of Blue Cities (and Red Cities for that matter).

    I don’t disagree that this is a problem…which, as you note, the Biden administration has attempted to cure by door to door vaccinations. Which of course Republican politicians, who themselves campaign door to door, have decried as un-American…or something.
    But I would wager that a closer analysis would find that political influence by anti-vax quacks (ht to Dick Durbin) is closely correlated to low-income refuseniks.

  17. de stijl says:

    If you don’t have a recent phone or a linked computer getting a vaccination appointment is fairly difficult.

    2
  18. Moderate Mom says:

    In my city, a vaccination site is open 7 days a week and 12 hours a day, no appointment necessary. It’s drive through, so you can load all your kids in the car and go get anyone over 12 vaccinated. Since I’m in the South, I doubt that most other cities are not offering comparable opportunities to get vaccinated. There are also the multiple Walgreens and CVS locations doing vaccinations without an appointment.
    I feel like most who are not vaccinated just don’t want to get vaccinated.

  19. Richard Gardner says:

    In rural Washington State many of the the holdouts are low income immigrants from Central America. Their native countries’ tabloids say that if you get the vaccine, you will be sterilized. If you think we have some crazy anti-vaxxers in the USA, that is nothing compared to the crazies south of the US border.
    The public health departments are doing huge public information campaigns (and vaccinations at work places, churches, etc), but these folks are believing the BS from their native lands (also many from SouthEast Asia – even translated into Karen (no, not the hyper woman, a language from Burma)).

    1
  20. mattbernius says:

    @Richard Gardner:
    The issue of low-income immigrants, especially the undocumented, is definitely a huge issue. And there is definitely a lot of misinformation and distrust within those communities (especially after the damage done during the Trump years and many of the changes made to safety net programs that intentionally drove undocumented folks even further underground).

  21. Clif says:

    I thought 46 manslained this with his “Tuskegee Airman” thing? You know, when his heroes were exploiting blacks with the syph?