Race, ethnicity, poverty and the social determinants of the coronavirus divide: U.S. county-level disparities and risk factors

Laura J. Samuel, Darrell J. Gaskin, Antonio J. Trujillo, Sarah L. Szanton, Andrew Samuel, Eric Slade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Communities with more Black or Hispanic residents have higher coronavirus rates than communities with more White residents, but relevant community characteristics are underexplored. The purpose of this study was to investigate poverty-, race- and ethnic-based disparities and associated economic, housing, transit, population health and health care characteristics. METHODS: Six-month cumulative coronavirus incidence and mortality were examined using adjusted negative binomial models among all U.S. counties (n = 3142). County-level independent variables included percentages in poverty and within racial/ethnic groups (Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian), and rates of unemployment, lacking a high school diploma, housing cost burden, single parent households, limited English proficiency, diabetes, obesity, smoking, uninsured, preventable hospitalizations, primary care physicians, hospitals, ICU beds and households that were crowded, in multi-unit buildings or without a vehicle. RESULTS: Counties with higher percentages of Black (IRR = 1.03, 95% CI: 1.02-1.03) or Hispanic (IRR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01-1.03) residents had more coronavirus cases. Counties with higher percentages of Black (IRR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.02-1.03) or Native American (IRR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01-1.04) residents had more deaths. Higher rates of lacking a high school diploma was associated with higher counts of cases (IRR = 1.03, 95% CI: 1.01-1.05) and deaths (IRR = 1.04, 95% CI: 1.01-1.07). Higher percentages of multi-unit households were associated with higher (IRR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01-1.04) and unemployment with lower (IRR = 0.96, 95% CI: 0.94-0.98) incidence. Higher percentages of individuals with limited English proficiency (IRR = 1.09, 95% CI: 1.04-1.14) and households without a vehicle (IRR = 1.04, 95% CI: 1.01-1.07) were associated with more deaths. CONCLUSIONS: These results document differential pandemic impact in counties with more residents who are Black, Hispanic or Native American, highlighting the roles of residential racial segregation and other forms of discrimination. Factors including economic opportunities, occupational risk, public transit and housing conditions should be addressed in pandemic-related public health strategies to mitigate disparities across counties for the current pandemic and future population health events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1250
Number of pages1
JournalBMC public health
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021

Keywords

  • Coronavirus
  • Health disparities
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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