Socioeconomic predictors of COVID-19- related health disparities among United States workers: A structural equation modeling study

Ariadna Capasso, Sooyoung Kim, Shahmir H. Ali, Abbey M. Jones, Ralph J. DiClemente, Yesim Tozan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted the physical and mental health, and the economic stability, of specific population subgroups in different ways, deepening existing disparities. Essential workers have faced the greatest risk of exposure to COVID- 19; women have been burdened by caretaking responsibilities; and rural residents have experienced healthcare access barriers. Each of these factors did not occur on their own. While most research has so far focused on individual factors related to COVID-19 disparities, few have explored the complex relationships between the multiple components of COVID-19 vulnerabilities. Using structural equation modeling on a sample of United States (U.S.) workers (N = 2800), we aimed to 1) identify factor clusters that make up specific COVID-19 vulnerabilities, and 2) explore how these vulnerabilities affected specific subgroups, specifically essential workers, women and rural residents. We identified 3 COVID- 19 vulnerabilities: financial, mental health, and healthcare access; 9 out of 10 respondents experienced one; 15% reported all three. Essential workers [standardized coefficient (β) = 0.23; unstandardized coefficient (B) = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.17, 0.24] and rural residents (β = 0.13; B = 0.12, 95% CI = 0.09, 0.16) experienced more financial vulnerability than nonessential workers and non-rural residents, respectively. Women (β = 0.22; B = 0.65, 95% CI = 0.65, 0.74) experienced worse mental health than men; whereas essential workers reported better mental health (β = -0.08; B = -0.25, 95% CI = -0.38, -0.13) than other workers. Rural residents (β = 0.09; B = 0.15, 95% CI = 0.07, 0.24) experienced more healthcare access barriers than non-rural residents. Findings highlight how interrelated financial, mental health, and healthcare access vulnerabilities contribute to the disproportionate COVID- 19-related burden among U.S. workers. Policies to secure employment conditions, including fixed income and paid sick leave, are urgently needed to mitigate pandemic-associated disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0000117
JournalPLOS global public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 9 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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