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Crowdfunding as a response to COVID-19: Increasing inequities at a time of crisis

Mark Igra, Nora Kenworthy, Cadence Luchsinger and Jin-Kyu Jung

Social Science & Medicine, 2021, vol. 282, issue C

Abstract: During the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 175,000 crowdfunding campaigns were established in the US for coronavirus-related needs using the platform GoFundMe. Though charitable crowdfunding has been popular in recent years, the widespread creation of COVID-19 related campaigns points to potential shifts in how the platform is being used, and the volume of needs users have brought to the site during a profound economic, social, and epidemiological crisis. This study offers a systematic examination of the scope and impacts of COVID-19 related crowdfunding in the early months of the pandemic and assesses how existing social and health inequities shaped crowdfunding use and outcomes. Using data collected from all US-based GoFundMe campaigns mentioning COVID or coronavirus, we used descriptive analysis and a series of negative binomial and linear models to assess the contributions of demographic factors and COVID-19 impacts to campaign creation and outcome. We find significant evidence of growing inequalities in outcomes for campaigners. We find that crowdfunding provides substantially higher benefits in wealthier counties with higher levels of education. People from these areas are more likely to initiate campaigns in response to adverse health and economic impacts of COVID-19, and they also receive more funding compared to people living in areas with lower income and education. Modeling also indicates differential outcomes based on the racial and ethnic composition of county population, though without more detail about who is creating and funding campaigns we cannot explain causality. A targeted qualitative analysis of the top earning COVID-19 campaigns offers further evidence of how user privilege and corporate practices contribute to highly unequal outcomes. Taken together, these findings demonstrate how a market-oriented digital technology used to respond to large-scale crisis can exacerbate inequalities and further benefit already privileged groups.

Keywords: COVID-19; Crowdfunding; Health inequity; Crisis; Social determinants of health (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114105

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