State of the Facts
Over one million people have died in the US from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, but the virus didn’t impact all Americans equally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has collected more than two years of data on COVID-19 deaths broken down by age, racial, and ethnic groups. Analyzing the data paints a comprehensive picture of racial disparities related to the pandemic.
As of June 22, 2022, among racial and ethnic groups, the non-Hispanic white, Black, and Native American populations had a higher share of COVID-19 deaths than their share of the population. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for 65% of COVID-19 deaths, nearly five percentage points higher than their share of the population.
The gap in deaths for non-Hispanic Black and Native American people was higher than for any other groups. The Black and Native American share of COVID-19 deaths is 13% and 57% higher than their population shares. Non-Hispanic Native Americans died of COVID-19 more disproportionately than any other racial or ethnic group.
While non-Hispanic white people have a higher share of COVID-19 deaths, that’s mostly explained by age. With 63% of COVID-19 deaths occurring with those 65 and over, older people were far more likely to die of COVID-19 than younger people. Older people are also likelier to be non-Hispanic white than the overall population.
Looking at COVID-19 death data by age from the CDC, non-Hispanic white people accounted for a smaller share of deaths than their population share in all age groups. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for 78% of the 258,000 COVID-19 deaths of people 85 and older, or slightly smaller than their share of the population in that age group. In younger age groups, the gap was far more pronounced. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for 38% of the 28,000 COVID-19 deaths of people aged 35 to 44, nearly 19 percentage points lower than the non-Hispanic white population share in the age group.
As a result, other racial and ethnic groups were disproportionately more likely to die of COVID-19, though the magnitude of those differences depended on the age range. Excluding the non-Hispanic Asian, white, and the Other categories, every other racial and ethnic group had disproportionately higher shares of COVID-19 deaths than their populations, regardless of age group. For example, Hispanic people accounted for a third of COVID-19 deaths aged 35 to 44, despite making up 21% of that population.
Limited hospitalization data from the CDC shows that non-Hispanic Native Americans were three times more likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic white Americans. The risk of hospitalization of Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black people was more than double that of the white population. The CDC also has limited data on cases, showing that the Native American and Hispanic populations were 50% more likely to test positive than the white population.
Explore case and death data since the start of the pandemic on the cases and deaths tracker.
The CDC calculated the rates based on data from 99 counties. The CDC provides this data using the non-Hispanic white hospitalization rate as the baseline.
Race and ethnicity data is available in two-thirds of cases. The CDC provides this data using the non-Hispanic white case rate as the baseline.
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