Coronavirus Inequality

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, mortality among White people is still lower than the lowest recorded Black mortality in the United States, according to a research released this week.

The research, published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, used demographic models to estimate how many additional deaths related to COVID-19 are needed for White mortality in 2020 to rise to the lowest recorded Black mortality.

“The lower estimates reflect the scenario in which White excess mortality in 2020 is proportional over age to White all-cause mortality in 2017,” said the research paper written by Elizabeth Wrigley-Field from the department of Sociology and Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota. “The higher numbers reflect the scenario in which White excess mortality is proportional to White COVID-19 mortality.”

“If fewer than 400,000 excess White deaths occur in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic for Whites will be less consequential to overall White mortality than racial inequality is for Black mortality every year,” said the paper.

“And unless 2020 sees 700,000 to 1 million excess White deaths — a 31 to 46 percent mortality increase from recent years — life expectancy for Whites, even amid COVID-19, will remain higher than it has ever been for Blacks,” it added.

“If Black disadvantage operates every year on the scale of Whites’ experience of COVID-19, then so too should the tools we deploy to fight it,” said Wrigley-Field. “Our imagination and social ambition should not be limited by how accustomed the United States is to profound racial inequality.”

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