Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Cases and Deaths: Theories and Evidence

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Non-white individuals are 1.75 times more likely to get infected with COVID-19 and 1.54 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white individuals. Using county-level data on COVID-19 cases by race, I find that average household size and public transportation use are statistically significantly correlated with case rates by race. Consequently, equalizing demographic, socio-economic, and environmental characteristics across racial groups, in particular average household size and percent elderly, is expected to reduce Black-white case rate differences by 66%, Hispanic-white case rate differences by 300%, and AIAN/NHPI-white case rate differences by 44.5%. Equalizing the strength of correlations between these characteristics and case rates across racial groups is expected to increase Black-white and AIAN/NHPI-white racial disparities, but decrease Hispanic-white disparities due to the strong relationship between average household size and case rates among the Hispanic population.
Last updated on 09/09/2021