Working Paper, The Unequal Toll of Covid-19 Mortality by Age in the United States: Quantifying Racial/Ethnic Disparities

Table 2: Years of potential life lost with age 65 cutoff (YPLL65) and age-standardized YPLL65 rate per 100,000 by race/ethnicity, with age-standardized YPLL65 rate ratios and rate differences per 100,000, COVID-19 related deaths in the US, February 1

FXB Center for Health and Human Rights Director Dr. Mary T. Bassett is the lead author of a new working paper exploring racial/ethnic differences in age-specific Covid-19 mortality rates in the U.S. The Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies Working Paper Series published the paper this week.

Dr. Bassett collaborated with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Professor Nancy Krieger and Research Scientist Dr. Jarvis Chen in this descriptive study using recently made available data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on U.S. Covid-19 deaths with race/ethnicity reported from February-May 2020, supplemented by population data drawn from the U.S. Census.

Early local media reports brought to national attention the disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases and deaths among Black and Hispanic people, typically comparing the proportion of cases and deaths in the area by reported race/ethnicity to the racial/ethnic composition of the population in the area. Lack of detail in national data made further analysis difficult. Newly released data by the NCHS make it possible for the first time to explore with national data whether Black, Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian and Pacific Island populations are dying at younger ages of Covid-19, as well as in disproportionate numbers. The study examines age-specific mortality rates by race/ethnicity and calculates its impact using Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL).

In all age strata, Covid-19 mortality rates were higher for racial/ethnic minorities compared to whites, with extremely high rate ratios (5-9 times higher) among younger adults (24-54 years), more than 3 times the age-standardized rate ratio. More years of potential life lost were experienced by Black and Hispanic people than by white people, although the white population is 3-4 times larger. Examining age-specific mortality rates is crucial to understanding the disparate impact of Covid-19 on racial/ethnic minorities.

To read the article, click here.