Black, Hispanic and other minority groups in the U.S. are more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than white Americans, a new meta-analysis study finds.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego compiled findings from 68 previous studies, including more than four million Covid patients.
Black Americans were about 3.5 times as likely to test positive for Covid than white Americans while Hispanic Americans were almost five times as likely to test positive.
The researchers also evaluated patients’ risk according to their socioeconomic status, finding that a lower income, less education, and worse housing quality increased the risk of getting sick.
The findings provide additional evidence of the high burden that Covid has placed on people of color in the U.S. – and support public health policies that address this disparity.
Black Americans are more than three times as likely to test positive for Covid as white Americans, a new analysis finds. Pictured: Testing at a clinic in Oakland, California, April 2021
Black and Hispanic patients were much more likely to test positive, to be hospitalized for Covid and to be admitted to the ICU, according to combined data from 68 studies (above)
From the start of the pandemic, people of color in the U.S. have been disproportionately vulnerable to Covid.
Black, Hispanic and other minorities are more likely to work in essential jobs, live in low-income communities and lack access to healthcare, among other burdens.
All of these factors – which scientists call ‘socioeconomic determinants of health’ – can increase a person’s risk of catching the coronavirus.
In addition, minority communities have higher rates of health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, which contribute to more severe Covid symptoms.
A new study provides additional evidence for minorities’ disproportionate risk of catching Covid, with a focus on socioeconomic factors.
For the study, published Thursday in JAMA Network Open, researchers performed a systematic review and meta-analysis, meaning that they compiled data from a number of other past studies and looked for overall patterns.
This meta-analysis includes studies published from January 2020 to January 2021 which reported on Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths by race and ethnicity.
In total, the analysis compiled results from 68 past studies – all done in the U.S. – including a total of 4.3 million patients.
The patient group was fairly diverse – though not quite representative of the U.S. population.
It included about 24 percent white Americans, 20 percent Hispanic Americans, nine percent black Americans, two percent Asian Americans, and under one percent Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Black and Hispanic Americans both had much higher risks of testing positive for Covid than white Americans, the analysis showed.
Black Americans were about 3.5 times as likely to test positive while Hispanic Americans were 4.7 times as likely.
Minority Covid patients also had higher risks of requiring intensive care in the hospital, the researchers found.
Asian Americans had the highest risk of ICU admission, about two times higher than white Americans.
In one group of studies, white Americans had the highest risk of dying from Covid – while in another group of studies, black and Hispanic Americans had higher risks of dying from the disease.
The researchers suggested that some of the studies may have been biased in their patient selection, or had incomplete data on mortality rates.
As a result, more analysis is needed to examine mortality risk by race and ethnicity.
A higher Area Deprivation Index indicates worse socioeconomic status – and this status corresponds to a higher likelihood of testing positive for Covid (top left), or, for black and Hispanic Americans, for dying from it (bottom left), the researchers found
A higher neighborhood median income corresponded to lower Covid mortality rates for Hispanic (bottom right) and black Americans (bottom left), the analysis showed
In order to connect Covid risk to socioeconomic status, the researchers used the Area Deprivation Index (ADI) – an index that includes income, education, employment, and housing quality.
After incorporating this index into the analysis, the researchers found that an index value corresponding to worse socioeconomic conditions increased Covid risk.
Even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, however, black and Hispanic Americans were still almost two times as likely to test positive for Covid as white Americans.
‘As such, this occurrence may be because of the overrepresentation of members of racial and ethnic minority groups in essential jobs, which increase exposure to COVID-19,’ the researchers wrote.
‘Furthermore, comorbidities, such as hypertension or obesity, are prevalent among minority populations, thus contributing to worsened disease outcomes.’
In addition to using this index, the researchers specifically looked at how Covid case rates varied by neighborhood income.
A higher median income in a neighborhood corresponded to lower mortality rates for Hispanic and black Americans, the researchers found.
There was less of a clear-cut correlation between neighborhood income and positive tests.
Overall, this study supports past findings indicating that people of color in the U.S. are more vulnerable to Covid.
‘Public health policies should address socioeconomic and racial disparities to reduce exposure to and fatality from COVID-19 in underrepresented populations,’ the researchers wrote.
‘Increasing equitable access to health care and improving resources for underserved populations may reduce exposure to COVID-19 in racial/ethnic minorities.’