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Minority racial concentration and COVID-19: The mediating role of social capital

December 7, 2022 @ 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm EST


Invited Speaker

Dr Cary Wu

Assistant Professor of Sociology
York University

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Growing research suggests that areas with higher concentrations of racial and ethnic minorities have experienced more negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this webinar, I will consider the mediating role of social capital in the effect of minority racial concentration on COVID-19 infection. I separate between two major dimensions of social capital, namely, cohesion social capital and network social capital, and consider how they might mediate the association differently. On one hand, network social capital in the forms of network connections and participation in social activities often promote more human to human contacts that could lead to the spread of the virus. On the other hand, cohesion social capital in the forms of social trust and political confidence can endow individuals with greater concern for others and high compliance with control measures that could help reduce the potential spread. In the first study, I focus on 140 Toronto Neighborhoods. Combining the data from the 2018 Toronto Social Capital Study (Environics Institute) and Toronto Neighborhood Pandemic Profile, I show that neighborhoods with higher levels of minority racial concentration show higher COVID-19 infection rates. I also show that cohesion social capital has a positive impact on reducing COVID-19 infection, while network social capital has a negative impact. However, they both play significant roles in mediating the association between minority concentration on COVID-19 infection. In the second study, I focus on over 3000 US counties. Combining data from the Social Capital Project (SCP) of the United States Congress’s Joint Economic Committee with the county-level information on COVID-19 from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, I replicate the first study. The patterns are consistent: higher levels of minority concentration are associated with higher COVID-19 infection rates. Cohesion social capital and network social capital show differential impacts, but they both significantly mediate the effect of minority concentration on COVID-19 infection. Results from these two studies illustrate that lack of social capital is one central mechanism underlying how racial and ethnic minorities experience the pandemic differently. Findings of this research also demonstrate the need to be more explicit about social capital’s different forms and how they may affect social outcomes differently.

About the presenter:

Cary Wu is Assistant Professor of Sociology at York University. His research focuses on political culture, race and ethnicity, and inequality. He often shares his research with the public via national and international TV, radio, and newspaper forums including NPR, CBC, CTV, The Washington Post, Toronto Star, Macleans, and The Economist.

About Our Webinar Series

This event is part of our regular webinar sessions for social capital researchers including PhD/master students. These sessions include invited presentations from prominent scholars as well as presentations by PhD students and experts in professional practice.

For social capital researchers, these sessions are an opportunity to hear about the latest social capital research and insights from scholars working on the concept. They can be a great way to connect with people, to get advice, discuss ideas or issues, get suggestions for literature to read, or you can just listen.

Are you researching social capital and want to present your research? Click here for more information and to submit a proposal.

Generally, presentations can be 20 to 30 mins. The content of your presentation will depend on your research stage.

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