The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus: How Our Unequal Society Fails Us during Outbreaks

The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus: How Our Unequal Society Fails Us during Outbreaks

by Troy Tassier
The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus: How Our Unequal Society Fails Us during Outbreaks

The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus: How Our Unequal Society Fails Us during Outbreaks

by Troy Tassier


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How can we make society more resilient to outbreaks and avoid forcing the poor and working class to bear the brunt of their harm?

When an epidemic outbreak occurs, the most physical and financial harm historically falls upon the people who can least afford it: the economically and socially marginalized. Where people live and work, how they commute and socialize, and more have a huge impact on the risks we bear during an outbreak. In The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus, economist Troy Tassier examines examples ranging from the 430 BCE plague of Athens to the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate why marginalized groups bear the largest burden of epidemic costs—and how to avoid these systemic failures in the future.

The links between epidemics and social issues—such as inequality, discrimination, and financial insecurity—are not always direct or clear. Tassier reveals truths hidden in plain sight, from the way population density statistics can be misleading to the often-misunderstood differences between risk and uncertainty. The disproportionate harm experienced by marginalized individuals is not the product of their own decisions; instead, the collective choices of society and the tangled web of interactions across people and communities leave these groups most exposed to the perils of epidemics.

However, there is reason to hope. Utilizing a wealth of economic and population data, Tassier argues that we can leverage lessons learned from historic and recent outbreaks to design better economic and social policies and more just institutions to protect everyone in society when inevitable future epidemics arrive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421448220
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 02/13/2024
Pages: 456
Sales rank: 454,329
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.42(d)

About the Author

Troy Tassier is a professor of economics at Fordham University.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Most Important Letter
Chapter 2. Differences of Density
Chapter 3. One (Unlucky) Spark
Chapter 4. Bridges of Disease
Chapter 5. Safer than the City
Chapter 6. Below the Margin
Chapter 7. The Pandemic Dilemma
Chapter 8. Rogue Waves
Chapter 9. A Curious Practice
Chapter 10. Compassion, Not Tools

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

The Rich Flee and the Poor Take the Bus sheds new light on age-old inequalities in health. Troy Tassier offers us both an indictment of the societal conditions that fueled sharply uneven losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and an invitation to reimagine a new normal in its aftermath.
—Anne Sosin, Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, Dartmouth College

Troy Tassier's book offers up an inconvenient truth: the burden of COVID pandemic, like all others before it, fell most heavily on the poor and marginalized. This disproportionate impact is not an accident—it is the result of deliberate choices that are promoted by those who are well-off in our societies; it is death by public policy.
—Gregg Gonsalves, Yale School of Public Health

From cholera to COVID, pandemics have disproportionately affected the poor. In a book that is spectacular in its breadth, clarity, and humaneness, Tassier brilliantly interweaves a history of pandemics with a scientific account of how disease spreads to demonstrate the structural causes of epidemic disparities.
—Scott E. Page, University of Michigan

Troy Tassier has produced an engaging tour of the concepts, facts, and historical cases that social scientists use to understand pandemics—and why their consequences are usually so unequally felt.
—Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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