Income Doesn't Explain COVID-19’s Racial Disparities

Friends and family mourn Conrad Coleman Jr., who died of COVID-19, following his funeral on July 3, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. Image: John Moore/Getty
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Friends and family mourn Conrad Coleman Jr., who died of COVID-19, following his funeral on July 3, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York. Image: John Moore/Getty

Predominantly non-white communities had almost 3X higher COVID-19 incidence than mostly white communities, even when income levels are accounted for, according to a new JAMA research letter.

  • Impoverished communities of color hit hard by COVID-19 saw 8X more COVID-19 infections and 9X more deaths as low-income white communities.

  • The NYU Grossman School of Medicine researchers expected to see more deaths in non-white, low-income communities—but were surprised that it persists even after accounting for poverty.

  •  The fact that non-white residents died from the virus at higher rates than white residents in both wealthier and poorer communities should be a major alarm bell to policymakers…” says coauthor Gbenga Ogedegbe.


Another JAMA letter calls out the CDC’s practice of weighting population data, saying it underestimates the excess burden of COVID-19 among Black and Latinx people. 

The practice “treats the geographical clustering of coronavirus deaths as a ‘nuisance parameter’ that must be controlled for to accurately compare death rates across racial groups,” the authors from Harvard University write.
 
The authors urged the CDC to “drop the misleading weighted counts and publish mortality rates per race/ethnicity group stratified by age, gender, education, and ZIP code characteristics to adequately equip epidemiologists and policy makers with the data to mitigate inequities.”


CIDRAP

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