Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Is COVID-19 Racist, Partisan, or Indiscriminate?

            There are claims that COVID-19 is racist. There are about three times more black Americans dying from the disease than other Americans. There could be numerous reasons why this is happening, but it looks like racism at first glance.

Across the country, African Americans have died at a rate of 50.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 20.7 for whites, 22.9 for Latinos and 22.7 for Asian Americans.

More than 20,000 African Americans – about one in 2,000 of the entire black population in the US – have died from the disease.

            Some officials thought that the difference could be attributed to “underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity.” We have been told for a couple of months that these conditions tend to lead to more deaths from the disease. However, these co-morbidities are not the entire picture. It appears that black American neighborhoods have disadvantages in accessing both diagnostic testing and treatment for the disease.  

            It is apparent from news reports and maps, that death from COVID-19 is concentrated in certain areas. It just so happens that most of these areas are large metropolitan areas – Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City. These are areas where “ethnic and racial minorities” live in “densely populated urban and suburban areas.” It just so happens that “almost all [are] represented by congressional Democrats.”

            John Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering collected information on COVID-19 deaths, and Pew Research Center analyzed the data. The data shows the following:

… As of last week, nearly a quarter of all the deaths in the United States attributed to the coronavirus have been in just 12 congressional districts – all located in New York City and represented by Democrats in Congress. Of the more than 92,000 Americans who had died of COVID-19 as of May 20 (the date that the data in this analysis was collected), nearly 75,000 were in Democratic congressional districts….

Of the 44 hardest-hit congressional districts – the top 10% in terms of deaths – 41 are represented by Democrats, while three are represented by Republicans. These include the New York-area districts, as well as those in the Boston, Detroit and New Orleans metropolitan areas. The average death toll in each of these hardest-hit districts was 1,122 as of May 20.

            Does this data say that COVID-19 is not only racist but partisan too? The answer is no because the disease is slowly moving from Democrat districts to Republican ones. However, the data shows some interesting results.

Two-thirds of residents of the hardest-hit districts live in urban or dense suburban areas, compared with just 19% of those living in the least hard-hit districts.

Nearly half (47%) of the population of districts that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus do not identify as white (while 53% of residents of these districts are white).

By comparison, in the 44 districts that have the lowest coronavirus death rate, seven-in-ten residents are white.

Harder-hit districts also tend to be places where residents have higher levels of formal education: 39% of those living in the districts with the highest death rate [having] a four-year college degree or more, compared with 28% of those living in the districts with the lowest death rate.

However, there are no differences across districts in terms of poverty rates. About equal shares of those living in both the most and least hard-hit places are under the poverty level as defined by the Census Bureau (13% of those in the districts with the highest death rate, 14% of those in districts with the lowest death rate).

            So, what can we take from the available data? It appears that (1) Education alone does not prevent illness, (2) white people are less likely to die of COVID-19, (3) more people living in in densely populated areas are likely to die, (4) poverty rate does not affect the death numbers.

            This is an interesting set of data, which shows correlation but not causation. We cannot say that more black people died because they live in Democrat congressional areas. We cannot say that the bad policies of Democrat governors caused more deaths. We cannot say that poverty is the reason for more deaths in one area than another. We can say that whites seem to fare better than other races with the disease. We can say that congested areas fared worse than those with wide-open spaces.

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