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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.22.23290349

Pandemic Lessons of Sustainability: Higher Covid-19 Mortality in Less Sustainable US States

L. n.LIU
This paper intends to contribute to the current debate over what lessons the United States should take away from the Covid-19 pandemic. It focuses on the role that sustainability played in shaping different pandemic outcomes among the 50 states. By the end of 2021, Mississippi reported the highest death rate from Covid-19 in the country, more than five times higher than Vermont, which reported the lowest death rate. If Mississippi had the same death rate as Vermont, approximately 83% of the lives lost (7,958 individuals) could have been saved. If all 50 states had the same death rate as Vermont, approximately 583,296 individuals (76% of the total deceased) would have survived. Such large variation among the states requires further research to understand. Political ideology is currently a popular possible explanation for discrepancies among states in pandemic outcomes, given that Republican states tended to have higher death rates compared to Democratic ones. Additionally, partisan politics have been criticized for hindering the US pandemic response, especially in the early stages of the pandemic. However, this study demonstrates that indicators of sustainability may actually serve as more significant predictors of Covid-19 death rates among the US states than political affiliation. Using the percentage of votes for Trump per state in 2020 as a proxy variable, this study found that the correlation between political affiliation and Covid-19 death rates is significant only when it is the lone parameter. Its effects are overshadowed when vaccination rates and eco-friendliness are included in the equation. Above all, when the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) index is added to the regression, it becomes the only significant predictor of death rates from Covid-19 becoming more influential than both partisan politics and vaccination. This suggests that it was not red or blue, but rather green that was the most important factor in determining Covid-19 mortality.