Chair of Empirical Methods in Social Science and Demography

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25 Years of Research in Rostock

Prof. Dr. Schareck, Rector of the University of Rostock, congratulates Gabriele Doblhammer to her 25th anniversary at the university.


Social disparities in the first wave of COVID-19 incidence rates in Germany

A county-scale explainable machine learning approach

Authors: Gabriele Doblhammer, Constantin Reinke, Daniel Kreft

Knowledge about the socioeconomic spread of the first wave of COVID-19 infections in Germany is scattered across different studies. We explored whether COVID-19 incidence rates differed between counties according to their socioeconomic characteristics using a wide range of indicators.

We used data from the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI) on 204 217 COVID-19 diagnoses in the total German population of 83.1 million, distinguishing five distinct periods between 1 January and 23 July 2020. For each period, we calculated age-standardised incidence rates of COVID-19 diagnoses on the county level and characterised the counties by 166 macro variables. We trained gradient boosting models to predict the age-standardised incidence rates with the macrostructures of the counties and used SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP) values to characterise the 20 most prominent features in terms of negative/positive correlations with the outcome variable.

The first COVID-19 wave started as a disease in wealthy rural counties in southern Germany and ventured into poorer urban and agricultural counties during the course of the first wave. High age-standardised incidence in low socioeconomic status (SES) counties became more pronounced from the second lockdown period onwards, when wealthy counties appeared to be better protected. Features related to economic and educational characteristics of the young population in a county played an important role at the beginning of the pandemic up to the second lockdown phase, as did features related to the population living in nursing homes; those related to international migration and a large proportion of foreigners living in a county became important in the postlockdown period.

High mobility of high SES groups may drive the pandemic at the beginning of waves, while mitigation measures and beliefs about the seriousness of the pandemic as well as the compliance with mitigation measures may put lower SES groups at higher risks later on.

Doblhammer G, Reinke C, Kreft D Social disparities in the first wave of COVID-19 incidence rates in Germany: a county-scale explainable machine learning approach BMJ Open 2022;12:e049852. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049852


Publication: A Demographic Perspective on Gender, Family and Health in Europe (Gabriele Doblhammer, Jordi Gumà)

This open access book examines the triangle between family, gender, and health in Europe from a demographic perspective. It helps to understand patterns and trends in each of the three components separately, as well as their interdependencies. The book compares twelve European countries reflecting different welfare state regimes and offers country-specific studies conducted in Austria, Germany, Italy and Sweden. 

For download click on conver ⇒