Place-based pathologies: economic complexity maps COVID-19 outcomes in UK local authorities

Study calls for the integration of public health and economic strategies in every locality across the UK when planning economic recovery in the context of aiming to reduce spatial inequalities.


Places with similar capabilities and economic structures tend to achieve similar rates of economic performance, but does this relationship also hold for health outcomes? The present study investigates the association between the economic complexity of local authorities in the UK and their Covid-19 morbidity and mortality rates.

We find that localities with a lower economic complexity index (ECI) registered significantly higher numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths, controlling for a range of confounders including age structure, ethnic population, obesity rate, community-level socio-economic status (i.e. deprivation level and housing price), and population density.

This result indicates that local economic structures in the UK shape people’s pandemic (and public health) experiences. This finding calls for the integration of public health and economic strategies in each locality when planning economic recovery in the context of aims to reduce spatial inequalities; health outcomes cannot be influenced independently of fundamental economic structures.  


  • About the author

    Professor Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy

    Professor Coyle co-directs the Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes.   Learn more

    Diane Coyle 2018
  • About the author

    Dr Esmaeil Khedmati Morasae

    Esmaeil is a Research Fellow in Policy and Complex Systems at the University of Exeter Business School. His research covers issues related to the circular economy, public health, and inclusivity of social organizations, informed by a complex systems approach.

  • About the author

    Dr Penny Mealy

    Penny is a Research Fellow, at SoDA Labs, Monash University. She was previously a Research Associate at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. In collaboration with Diane Coyle, Penny’s work focused on a project entitled ‘Practical Wisdom in a Complex World’.

    Penny Mealy
  • About the author

    Dr Tahera Ebrahimi

    Tahera is a lecturer at the Huddersfield University Business School. Her research covers issues related to the corporate finance, corporate governance, accounting, and economy.