Rural and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Mortality Rates and Associations with Community Characteristics

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2021
Project completed:
June 2023

COVID-19 has affected all populations across the United States and was the third leading cause of death in 2020. However, studies have consistently shown that disease burden has disproportionately fallen on racial/ethnic minority populations, and that there have been periods during the pandemic when incidence and death rates in rural areas have exceeded that of urban populations. Much of the research on geographic and racial/ethnic disparities have been conducted on data from early to mid 2020, but it is especially important to examine disparities during the pandemic's peak. In particular, December 2020-January 2021 was a time of hospitalizations and deaths following the surge of cases surrounding the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that in many rural and urban areas stretched hospital resources to capacity and may have diminished quality of care. Therefore, our overarching goal was to assess differences in mortality rates across the rural-urban continuum and across racial/ethnic composition and to identify area-level factors associated with COVID-19 morality rates during the peak of the pandemic (December 2020-January 2021).