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Disparities in Deaths from COVID-19

Disparities in Deaths from COVID-19

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Updated Dec. 10, 2020

Conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, play, and worship affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes, such as COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death. These conditions are known as social determinants of health. Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Distribution of COVID-19 deaths and population distributions by race and ethnicity

The distribution of COVID-19 deaths differs by race and ethnicity in the United States as well as by jurisdiction (state or District of Columbia). Data on race and ethnicity for more than 90% of people who died from COVID-19 reveal that the percent of Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people who have died from COVID-19 (red bars) is higher than the percent of these racial and ethnic groups among the total U.S. population (blue bars). This disparity is even greater when the percentages are age-standardized (adjusted for differences in the age distribution across racial and ethnic groups). Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people also have a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths among specific age groups across the lifespan – children, youth, adults, and older adults.

The count of COVID-19 deaths, distribution of COVID-19 deaths, and unweighted distribution of the population are displayed in a set of interactive charts.

Data source: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), provisional death counts.

Evidence from the literature

Studies have revealed similar findings on the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths among some racial and ethnic minority groups. 12 A study of selected states and cities with data on COVID-19 deaths by race and ethnicity showed that 34% of deaths were among non-Hispanic Black people, though this group accounts for only 12% of the total U.S. population. 3

In Chicago, residents in highly segregated neighborhoods with higher social vulnerability, such as higher levels of poverty and lower levels of education, income, and employment, are disproportionately exposed to social and health risks. This intersection of factors was found to be associated with high death rates from COVID-19. 4 Similarly, in a nationwide analysis, counties with higher population percentages of non-Hispanic Black people experienced higher COVID-19 confirmed case and death rates than counties with higher population percentages of non-Hispanic White people. 5

Together, the evidence from the provisional death data from NCHS and recent studies clearly illustrate the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 deaths among racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Hispanic or Latino, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people. To prevent deaths from COVID-19, we need to work together to address inequities in the social determinants of health that increase the risk of death from COVID-19 for racial and ethnic minority groups. Learn more about what we can do to move towards health equity.


1. Price-Haygood EG, Burton J, et al. Hospitalization and Mortality among Black Patients and White Patients with Covid-19. N Engl J Med. 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa2011686external icon.

2. Wadhera RK, Wadhera P, Gaba P, Figueroa JF, Joynt Maddox KE, Yeh RW, & Shen C. Variation in COVID-19 Hospitalizations and Deaths Across New York City Boroughs. JAMA. 2020;323(21),2192–2195. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.7197external icon.

3. Holmes L, Enwere M, Williams J, et al. Black-White Risk Differentials in COVID-19 (SARS-COV2) Transmission, Mortality and Case Fatality in the United States: Translational Epidemiologic Perspective and Challenges. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(2):4322. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124322external icon.

4. Kim SJ and Bostwick W. Social Vulnerability and Racial Inequality in COVID-19 Deaths in Chicago. Health Ed & Behavior. 2020;47(4):509-513. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198120929677external icon.

5. Mahajan UV, Larkings-Pettigrew M. Racial Demographics and COVID-19 Confirmed Cases and Deaths: A Correlational Analysis of 2886 U.S. Counties. J Public Health. 2020;42(3):445-447. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdaa070external icon.