What is it about?

Demographic models show that, unless the COVID-19 pandemic results in 400,000 excess deaths among U.S. whites alone, U.S. white mortality in 2020 will still be lower than U.S. Black mortality has ever been. Further, unless the coronavirus results in 700,000-1 million excess deaths among whites, white life expectancy in 2020 will still be higher than the best recorded Black life expectancy.

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Why is it important?

Even amid Covid-19, U.S. white mortality is likely to be less than what U.S. Blacks have experienced every year. I argue that, 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. Our imagination should not be limited by how accustomed the U.S. is to profound racial inequality.


This research (and my earlier research showing that white mortality during the 1918 flu pandemic was less than what Blacks experienced every year at that time) changed the way I think about racial inequality in the United States. To stop Covid-19, we have shut down the world. We should be willing to embrace the same scale of disruption and change to stop these deaths that occur every year.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field
University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: US racial inequality may be as deadly as COVID-19, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014750117.
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