The Potluck

Socioeconomic status isn’t linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes, new UMN study finds

By: - May 19, 2021 3:05 pm

Workers load new respirators into a van at a hospital in Italy at the beginning of the pandemic. Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images.

People of color tend to experience worse COVID-19 outcomes than white people, regardless of socioeconomic status, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.

The study also found that people who don’t speak English have worse outcomes than English speakers. These findings emphasize the importance of researching how racism and language barriers contribute to disparities in health care, the researchers say.

Previous studies found links between race and ethnicity and COVID-19 outcomes, but this paper is among the first to assess social and cultural factors, according to a new release from the U.

Researchers analyzed the records of more than 5,500 patients in the M Health Fairview system who tested positive for COVID-19 from March 4 to Aug. 19. They used patient zip codes to track socioeconomic status through an “area deprivation index,” which combines 17 socioeconomic factors like education and poverty levels.

They found that Hispanic patients were the most likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, followed by Asian patients and Black patients. Even people of color at the highest socioeconomic status experienced worse outcomes than white people.

There was no link between socioeconomic status alone and the likelihood of hospitalization, according to the study.

The research team will take a closer look at specific socioeconomic factors next, according to the release. Researchers believe racism, testing access, genetics and job type may play a role in disease severity.

Lead researcher Nicholas Ingraham said the results should influence COVID-19 efforts in the meantime.

“Seeing an increased risk of severe COVID-19 disease in people of color and non-English speaking (people), independent of other known risk factors, these populations should be considered high priority for the continued vaccination rollout,” Ingraham said in the release.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.