FREEDOM AND SAFETY
When former US President George W. Bush recently urged Americans to unite in the face of COVID-19, he described everyone as “equally vulnerable.” But COVID-19 hasn't had an equal impact on all Americans.
A growing number of individual states have begun publishing COVID-19 data by race, including information on mortality rates.
As more data accumulates, a glaring gap in terms of the pandemic’s toll has become apparent.
In many places, COVID-19 is killing a vastly disproportionate number of African-Americans – and adding yet another troubling aspect to what might be a second wave of coronavirus cases for the country.
In several states, the percentage of reported COVID-19 deaths so far attributed to African-Americans is not only greater than their share of the state population – it is more than double. In Kansas, for example, African-Americans account for nearly a third of reported COVID-19-related deaths but just 6% of the state population, in Michigan they account for 41% of reported deaths and 14% of the population, and in Illinois they account for nearly 34% of reported deaths and less than 15% of the population.
Experts point to a number of reasons for the imbalance. The underlying health conditions (such as diabetes) that put people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 tend to be more common among African-Americans. African-Americans also tend to be prominent in many public-facing occupations that require them to show up at work every day despite the pandemic, therefore putting them at greater risk.
It’s not just the US where COVID-19 appears to be exacting a disparate death toll. According to a report published recently by London-based think tank The Institute for Fiscal Studies, there are growing concerns that some ethnic groups in the United Kingdom are being disproportionately affected. The report includes alarming data showing that COVID-19 hospital deaths per 100,000 in England for British people of black Caribbean background have been roughly three times the number for the white British population.
The pandemic also appears to be having a disproportionate impact on Bangladeshi, Black African and Pakistani populations in the UK, according to the report. One explanation offered for this sounds similar to the dynamic cited in the US – many people from these groups are key workers who have had to remain on the frontlines of keeping health systems and economies running.
For more context, here are links to further reading from the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform: