Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Excess COVID-19 Deaths

Quick Takes

  • Outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected ethnic groups.
  • More excess deaths were found from March–December 2020 related to COVID-19.
  • Discrepancies did exist among different ethnic and racial groups in relation to excess deaths and all-cause mortality.

Study Questions:

What is an estimate of US excess deaths by racial and ethnic group during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic?


From March–December 2020, data were collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a surveillance study estimating the number of excess deaths by race, ethnicity, sex, age group, month, and cause of death. These data were compared to similar endpoints in 2019. Race/ethnicity was classified by: non-Latino White (White), non-Latino African American or Black (Black), non-Latino American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN), non-Latino Asian (Asian), Hispanic/Latino (Latino), and other (includes persons of ≥2 races, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and those with unknown Hispanic origin). Excess deaths from March–December 2020 were estimated as the number of deaths observed in 2020 minus the number expected in 2020 by cause, race/ethnicity, sex, age group, and month.


There were an estimated 2.88 million deaths between March–December 2020 according to the CDC data. There were an estimated 4,777,200 excess deaths during this time frame compared with expected data in 2019, of which 74% were due to COVID-19. Excess deaths per 100,000 persons among Black, AI/AN, and Latino males and females were more than twice those who were White and Asian males and females.


There are racial and ethnic disproportions in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since 2019. These disproportions are seen more in total excess deaths in Black, AI/AN, and Latino persons.


COVID-19 has created significant racial and ethnic differences in COVID-19 risk, hospitalization, and death. This is thought to have worsened with the pandemic due to health access and socioeconomic exposure. There was a disproportionate number of deaths among different racial and ethnic groups during the pandemic, causing an overall increase in disparities in mortality between 2019–2020.

Clinical Topics: Prevention

Keywords: African Americans, Alaskan Natives, American Natives, Asian Continental Ancestry Group, Cause of Death, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Ethnic Groups, Hispanic Americans, Pandemics, Primary Prevention, Socioeconomic Factors

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