Social environments, segregation linked to high COVID-19 death rate among Blacks, study finds

According to this research, 102.1 of every 100,000 Blacks died of COVID-19, compared to 73.1 of every 100,000 whites.

A new study conducted by a researcher at Ohio University has found that residential segregation was a contributing factor in the disproportionate numbers of deaths among African Americans from COVID-19. 

The results of the study were reviewed and reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Berkeley Franz’s research examined the relationship between systemic racism, residential segregation and racial/ethnic disparities as it relates to the deadly ongoing pandemic for the journal Ethnicity & Disease. 

A man in Tampa, Florida, gets the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination in February 2021 as part of Bible-Based Fellowship Church partnering with the Pasco County Health Department and Army National Guard to help residents 65 and older protect themselves from the virus. (Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

“We were interested in doing this study because racial and ethnic disparities have been apparent amid COVID-19, and for some Americans, this may have been one of the first times they’ve learned about disparities,” Franz told The AJC. “Health disparities are present with almost every illness and have persisted for years, and the gap isn’t closing, especially between Black and white Americans. We wanted to understand what was driving those disparities to find better ways to reduce them.”

Franz led three other researchers in assessing deaths from the virus through December 2020 using metrics for evaluating systemic racism, as well as socioeconomic factors. They determined that the death rate was higher among African Americans because of social environments rather than physiology or genetics. Resources like health care, employment opportunities and quality education access were all considered. 

According to this research, 102.1 of every 100,000 Black residents died of COVID-19 compared to 73.1 of every 100,000 white residents. The CDC reported that Blacks were 1.7 times more likely to die from the virus than whites.

“Race doesn’t strongly shape if an individual gets infected with COVID-19, as infection rates are similar by race,” Franz said. “But race does relate to how severe the disease is and if you die from it.”

“Racial disparities are baked into American institutions, whether that is in education systems, health care or neighborhoods,” she continued, “and we found that the more residential segregation there was in a state, the better (a) predictor it was for how many people were dying of COVID and who was dying.”

The conclusion in the abstract of the study says: “More attention should be given to the mechanisms by which infectious disease pandemics exacerbate health disparities in areas of high residential segregation and should inform more targeted health poli­cies. Such policy changes stand to make all American communities more resilient in the face of new and emerging infec­tious diseases.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!