Community-Level Factors Associated With Racial And Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Rates In Massachusetts

Jose F. Figueroa et al
Date of Publication: 
February, 2021
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

This report by researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School looks at racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 infection rates in Massachusetts, focusing on demographic, occupational, and economic factors contributing to higher risk for COVID-19.  Massachusetts has had one of the highest case and death rates in the country, with disproportionate impacts on Black and Latino populations, a trend repeated in states nationwide. Using data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the 2013–18 American Community Survey, a cross-sectional analysis of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns from January 1 to May 6, 2020 found that several factors (foreign-born noncitizen status, household size, and job type, especially work in food services occupations) are associated with the higher COVID-19 rates among Latinos. However, these same factors do not appear to explain higher case rates in Black communities. Other systemic inequities not included in the study may contribute to the rate of spread of COVID-19 among Black populations, including high incarceration rates, residence in areas with more multiunit dwellings, and neighborhood segregation leading to disparities in health care access and greater exposure to environmental hazards. The study concludes that further research into the social and economic factors underlying COVID-19-related health disparities and new policies to address risk factors and institutional racism will be critical to controlling the epidemic and improving health equity. These policies include public health and policy efforts that improve access to health care, address crowded housing and environmental hazards, and protect essential workers in public-facing roles. (Jeffrey Gross, Ph.D.)

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Figueroa, J. (2021, February). Community-Level Factors Associated With Racial And Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Rates In Massachusetts. Health Affairs.