Black women have died from COVID-19 at much higher rates than white men in Georgia and Michigan, according to a new study.
Harvard researchers looked at data on COVID-19 death rates in both states until September 2020 and found that black women died at 3.8 times the rate of white men in Michigan and 1.6 times the rate of white men in Georgia.
While other studies had previously shown that overall, men die from COVID-19 at higher rates than women, and Blacks die at a higher rate than whites, this study examined how race and gender intersect to create new disparities.
The study results were “consistent with what we would expect, although it is always devastating to see such results and unfortunate that this is what we would expect,” said Tamara Rushovich, co-author of the study.
“Black women are at the intersection of sexual and racial oppression,” said a student from Harvard School of Public Health, said. “So it was not surprising to see these high rates among black women become more visible.”
The study was based on only two states because the other states at the time did not have complete data on COVID-19 deaths disaggregated by race, sex and age.
Neither Michigan nor Georgia had data on coronavirus deaths disaggregated by ethnicity, so the study could not include results on Latinxes, who as a group nationwide – like blacks. – are hospitalized at three times the rate of whites and die twice as much.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has only published some data on race and ethnicity of people infected and killed by the virus, after a pushed by Democratic lawmakers Last year. But the data is not disaggregated by race, ethnicity, sex, and age in all states to allow for the same kind of nationwide analysis these researchers did in Georgia and Michigan.
Rushovich said she “ wouldn’t be surprised to see similar patterns ” of black women dying at much higher rates than white men across the country, though she worries about generalizing too much because every state has different spurts of political cases and responses, such as mask warrants and arrests.
“Due to the long history of racism and structural and sexist racism, I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar patterns that exist across the country, but there could be varying degrees of magnitude,” the researcher said, noting that this would be essential. for similar data on deaths from COVID-19 in all states.
More than 558,000 people have died to date of the coronavirus in the United States
Part of the factors that explain why black women die at such high rates as white men is what researchers have called “occupational exposure,” or how much people’s jobs have exposed them to the virus. Women of color disproportionately represented in essential work, from home health aides to nurses, who were particularly at risk in the first line of the virus. Other factors, such as deportations, disproportionately placed women of color risk of catching the virus.
Having data on disparities in COVID-19 deaths specifically around intersections of race and gender, like this study, is important for how the government responds in the design of relief bills , vaccine distribution and more, Rushovich noted.
Democratic lawmakers have been calling on the CDC to release data on the race and ethnicity of those vaccinated to be able to monitor disparities and better fight against inequalities.
“Collecting data and reporting is one step – it doesn’t solve the problem, but it lets you know where the inequalities are,” Rushovich said. “This is an important first step in at least making vulnerable groups visible and the resources to be devoted.”
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