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

26 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2020 Last revised: 4 Jan 2021

See all articles by Ljubica Ristovska

Ljubica Ristovska

Harvard University, Department of Economics

Date Written: January 3, 2021


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.

Keywords: COVID-19, race, racial disparities

JEL Classification: I10, I14, J1

Suggested Citation

Ristovska, Ljubica, Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Cases and Deaths: Theories and Evidence (January 3, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3668051 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3668051

Ljubica Ristovska (Contact Author)

Harvard University, Department of Economics ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02138

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/ristovska

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