INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's poorest neighborhoods have almost 50% more COVID-19 cases than their rich counterparts, according to new ZIP code-level data made public by state officials.
“Sadly, it isn't that shocking to me,” said Brian Dixon, a professor at the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI in Indianapolis.
The Journal Gazette compared the 20 wealthiest ZIP codes with the 20 poorest according to ZipDataMaps.com.
The affluent ZIP codes have 1,758 cases – or 0.63% of its population. The poorest ZIP codes have 3,001 cases, or 0.93% of its population.
Overall, the state now has 40,786 positive cases and 2,265 deaths.
Dixon said there are a few reasons behind the data – the biggest being the type of jobs people in the ZIP codes have.
A wealthier, white-collar Hoosier can more easily work from home via Zoom meetings and shelter in place to lower the risk of exposure. But people living in low-income neighborhoods usually must go to their jobs – such as at a grocery store, fast food restaurant or warehouse.
“If you have to go to work, you are becoming exposed. And those jobs may not have sick leave,” Dixon said. “That's why we are seeing poorer neighborhoods with higher rates of infection.”
Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, said this is one reason Indiana needs to raise the pay of “essential workers” by increasing the minimum wage.
“They have to expose themselves to keep the economy running,” he said. “If they are essential, they should be paid that way.”
Dixon also said the population density of the ZIP codes could be a factor. The majority of the wealthy ZIP codes are more single-family homes on larger lots, resulting in lower populations.
“If people are living on top of each other, it might be easier to spread,” he said, referring to multifamily housing.
Porter also notes that blacks – many of whom live in these neighborhoods – have higher rates of some underlying health conditions – such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
He said Democrats have been trying for years to address health disparities but the Republican supermajorities at the Statehouse have failed to provide funding.
“It just falls on deaf ears,” Porter said.
The ZIP code data isn't that helpful for state purposes, but Dixon said local health officials know that outbreaks have been fairly localized, so it is helpful to be able to track them this way to head off a problem.
He said counties are not homogeneous with all residents sharing the same level of risk – even for the flu, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and other diseases.
A prime advantage to tracking the data is that community-based organizations such as United Way and other social service groups can more directly target help to hard-hit areas. This could include food assistance, housing aid and more.
“They can really serve their clients by targeting their education and assistance,” Dixon said.
The data is available on the Indiana Management Performance Hub at https://tabsoft.co/2UQYMdJ. Hoosiers can search by ZIP code or look at African-American and Latino populations. The data will be updated weekly.
At a glance
The richest ZIP codes with adjusted gross income; raw case counts and rate for the population
46290 – Indianapolis - $227,150 – no cases
46814 – Fort Wayne - $176,240 – 27 cases or 0.22% rate
46077 – Zionsville - $166,260 – 119 cases or 0.49% rate
46032 – Carmel - $154,490 – 249 cases or 0.49% rate
46033 – Carmel - $144,940 – 102 cases or 0.29% rate
The poorest ZIP codes with adjusted gross income; raw case counts and rate for the population
47406 – Bloomington - $7,700 – suppressed data because too few cases or population
46803 – Fort Wayne - $23,320 – 99 cases for 1.01% rate
46402 – Gary - $23,670 – 67 cases for 1% rate
46218 – Indianapolis - $23,950 – 404 cases for 1.39% rate
46407 – Gary - $24,800 – 105 cases for 0.83% rate
Source: ZIPDataMaps.com and Internal Revenue Service