A new study led by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University finds significant differences in COVID-19 mortality rates by gender and racial/ethnic group.
Several studies have found that men are more likely to be infected by COVID-19 and have higher death rates. The new research found that within any one racial group, men are more likely to die of COVID-19 than women.
But this data obscures the fact that Black women are up to four times more likely to die of COVID-19 than White men. Additionally, Black men have the highest COVID-19 mortality rates of any group defined by both race and sex — up to six times higher than the rates among White men. The study found that the mortality rate for Black men was 1.7 times greater than the rate for Black women.
These findings strongly suggest structural inequities in society, including that Black people are more likely than Whites to hold higher-risk jobs. Marion Boulicault, a graduate student in the MIT department of lingustics and philosophy and co-author of the study, notes that the data showing Black women’s mortality rate is four times higher than the rate for White men “highlights the role of inequalities and structural racism in determining outcomes in this pandemic. The fact that Black women are disproportionately represented in health care occupations and service occupations that are risk factors for COVID-19 exposure is an example of one kind of structural inequality.”
“The data challenges the idea that sex disparities are driven primarily by sex-based biological differences, and makes clear the kinds of vulnerabilities that might be invisible if you focus purely on either race or sex alone,” Boulicault added.
The full study, “Sex Disparities in COVID-19 Mortality Vary Across US Racial Groups,” was published on the website of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It may be accessed here.