Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

The Buffer Function of Wealth in Socioemotional Responses to Covid‐19 in Italy

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Abstract:  The social stratification of material consequences of individual‐level disruptive events is a widely researched topic. Less is known about the stratification of psychological outcomes in response to contextual‐level disruptive events. We aim to fill this gap by investigating the aftermath of the Covid‐19 pandemic on individuals’ dispositional optimism and the stratification based on unequal wealth resources. The study focuses on Italy, the first European country to be strongly hit by Covid‐19, and one characterised by high levels of private savings and homeownership. Theoretically, we draw on the conventional social inequalities framework informed by insights from the literature on natural disasters, positing that wealth‐related resource disparities may have stratified the socioemotional response to the pandemic. Empirically, we leverage a combination of individual‐level longitudinal survey data (Bank of Italy’s Special Survey of Italian Households) and municipality‐level official statistics on excess mortality (Italian National Institute of Statistics), covering the first 17 months of the Covid‐19 pandemic in Italy. Results indicate overall negative consequences of severe exposure to risks associated with the pandemic on optimism. However, we found evidence in line with a post‐traumatic growth scenario, as optimism slightly increased over the course of the pandemic. The insurance function of wealth emerges in the higher optimism of individuals with more resources. Nevertheless, resource disparities are not translated into stark differences in susceptibility to risk exposure or post‐traumatic growth. Overall, our findings support a limited insurance function of wealth in the socioemotional sphere.

Keywords:  Covid‐19; disruptive events; excess mortality; Italy; risk exposure; social inequality; socioemotional responses; wealth


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© Davide Gritti, Filippo Gioachin, Anna Zamberlan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.