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This year, Americans turned to USAFacts for nonpartisan data to understand the priorities of the Biden administration, the nation’s changing population, and, most prominently, the ongoing pandemic. Here are the most-read reports of 2021.

10. The summer of the Delta variant

The United States had a different summer than expected. The vaccine rollout meant a drop in cases, states ended mask mandates throughout June, if not earlier, and many Americans resumed their old routines. Then the Delta variant appeared. By mid-August, coronavirus deaths were 150% higher than in early July. To help put this phase of the pandemic in context, USAFacts created six charts on who was most affected by this summer wave.

Daily COVID-19 deaths are down 82% from a January high, but new deaths are 150% higher than in early July.

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9. Cancelling $9.5 billion in student loans

In a speech on November 16, 2020, then President-elect Joe Biden discussed forgiving up to $10,000 in student debt for many borrowers. In September, USAFacts broke down for readers how the Biden administration relieved 563,000 (1.3% of all borrowers) of their student loan debt this year. The canceled loans were less than 1% of the student debt owed in the US. Three-fourths of the forgiven loans belonged to disabled borrowers.

8. Understanding flu shots 

While awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine, Americans were curious about the uptake of other vaccines. At the start of the 2020 flu season, USAFacts analyzed the data to understand how different age groups got the shot — more than half of Americans got a flu shot during the 2019-2020 flu season.

7. Biden’s first 100 days

The Biden administration began with a long list of priorities. Readers wanted to know how he delivered on those promises after his first 100 days, making this recap the seventh-most read article this year. Those first 100 days included 42 executive actions on immigration, equality, and COVID-19, and the passage of the American Rescue Plan.

Nearly half of all jobs added between January and March were in the leisure and hospitality sector.

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6. The diverse demographics of Asian Americans

USAFacts marked Asian American Heritage Month with a unique demographic breakdown of the nation’s 18.6 million Asian Americans. According to the latest census data, Asian Americans are younger, more likely to be born abroad, and live in higher-income households than the average American. Readers dug into these metrics on education, family size, and being native-born versus naturalized to make this one of the most-read reports on the site this year.

Chinese and Indian Americans make up 47% of the Asian American population.

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5. Top causes of death for Americans

Heart disease and cancer are the top annual causes of death in the US. COVID-19 joined that list in 2020. Early in the pandemic, Americans wanted context on how this new virus compared to more familiar causes, so USAFacts compiled the data. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some COVID-19 deaths might have been misclassified as pneumonia or influenza deaths on death certificates in 2020.

4. How many people die of the flu?

March 2021 marked one year of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. To provide context on what had been an unprecedented 12 months, USAFacts contrasted COVID-19 with the seasonal flu. Around 61,000 people died from influenza in the 2017-2018 flu season, one of the deadliest flu seasons of the past 10 years. In contrast, almost 529,000 people died of coronavirus by mid-March 2021.

About 61,000 people died in the 2017-2018 flu season, the worst in the past decade.

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3. COVID-19 vaccine side effects data

Much-awaited coronavirus vaccines finally became available in late 2020. Americans wanted to know more about these new vaccines, so USAFacts collected government data on reported side effects.  Headaches were the most common side effect among the 0.05% of recipients who reported adverse symptoms. By that time, that 13.8 million people had received vaccines nationwide.

2. Who’s earning the federal minimum wage?

This exploration of the federal minimum wage provides a detailed look at who earns what by state, industry, age, and education level. For that reason, this article has been one of the most popular on the site since September 2019. The (eventually scrapped) idea of including a $15 federal minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan garnered renewed interest in the topic. For further reading, this summer, USAFacts revisited the earning power of various wages, including $15 an hour and the current federal minimum of $7.25. Interact with the data to see how far earnings go in every state.

1. Understanding the toll of the first year of the pandemic

Published at the end of 2020 (and widely read in 2021), this article on death statistics shed a grim light on the toll COVID-19 took on the nation last year. The top USAFacts article of the year includes data to compare the first year of the pandemic to the Spanish Flu, gain perspective of the lives lost, and more. These statistics show there were more than 3.4 million total deaths in the US last year — 20% more than in 2019.

Heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 were the top causes of death in 2020.

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