Birds of a feather flock together? Diversity and the spread of Covid-19 cases in India

Udayan Rathore, Upasak Das and Prasenjit Sarkhel


Arresting Covid-19 infections requires collective action that is difficult to achieve in a socially and economically diverse setting. Using district-level data from India, we examined the effects of caste and religious fragmentation, along with economic inequality, on the growth rate of reported Covid-19 cases. Our findings indicate the positive effects of caste homogeneity, while demonstrating a limited impact of economic inequality and religious homogeneity. The gains from higher caste homogeneity eroded gradually with the unlocking procedure after the nationwide lockdown but community cohesion through caste remained dominant in rural areas even when mobility restrictions were withdrawn. Our findings indicate that planners should prioritise public health interventions in areas that are heterogeneous in terms of caste to compensate for the absence of community cohesion. The importance of our study lies in empirically validating the causal pathway between homogeneity and infection growth, thereby providing a basis for zoning infection-prone areas and advocating a differentiated policy response.


Caste, Covid-19, diversity, unlock, social cohesion, India

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