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Social Vulnerability and Racial Inequality in COVID-19 Deaths in Chicago

By: Drs. Sage Kim & Wendy Bostwick

Abstract

Although the current COVID-19 crisis is felt globally, at the local level, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected poor, highly segregated African American communities in Chicago. To understand the emerging pattern of racial inequality in the effects of COVID-19, we examined the relative burden of social vulnerability and health risk factors. We found significant spatial clusters of social vulnerability and risk factors, both of which are significantly associated with the increased COVID-19-related death rate. We also found that a higher percentage of African Americans was associated with increased levels of social vulnerability and risk factors. In addition, the proportion of African American residents has an independent effect on the COVID-19 death rate. We argue that existing inequity is often highlighted in emergency conditions. The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 in African American communities are a reflection of racial inequality and social exclusion that existed before the COVID-19 crisis.

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