The death rate from Covid-19 for black and Latino New Yorkers is roughly twice that of white New Yorkers, according to the latest city data. The death rate among Latino New Yorkers is 22.8 for every 100,000 people. Among African Americans, it is 19.8. In contrast, 10.2 of every 100,000 white New Yorkers has died from the new coronavirus.
The numbers, which were released on Wednesday, are based on 63 percent of confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York City. They are consistent with reporting from Louisiana, Illinois, Milwaukee, and Michigan, as well as preliminary national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show that black people are dying in greater numbers from the virus. They are also in line with long-established health disparities in New York City, where the poor and people of color tend to die earlier and suffer worse health outcomes.
The new numbers show the virus ravaging the city’s communities of color and spreading along the edges of New York’s vast economic divide. The five ZIP codes with the highest rates of positive tests for the coronavirus — in Corona, Cambria Heights, East Elmhurst, Queens Village, and Jackson Heights — have an average per capita income of $26,708, while residents in the five with the lowest rates — in Lower Manhattan, Tribeca, Battery Park City, and the east side of Midtown — had an average income of $118,166, according to an analysis of New York City data by The Intercept.
Zip Codes With the Highest Positive Test Rates
Estimated Per Capita Income
Zip Codes With the Lowest Positive Test Rates
Estimated Per Capita Income
While the data is still incomplete and factors contributing to the spread of the coronavirus are not yet fully understood, some experts caution against interpreting the racial disparity as caused by race itself. “It can make sense to point to race as a proxy for other causal factors, such as greater rates of poverty and poorer access to health care,” said Adolph Reed, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. But Reed warned of the danger of “neatly tying up the specific epidemiological factors for coronavirus or other bad health outcomes with the ribbon of race.”
“Insofar as people insist on race as the framework, then it clouds what the causal mechanisms are,” said Reed. Race correlates with poverty, a lack of sick leave, exposure to pollution, jobs that leave employees exposed to the coronavirus, and a need to take subways and buses, which can be a source of exposure.
“If you’re wealthy, you’re not taking public transport,” said Elizabeth Pathak, an epidemiologist and president of the Women’s Institute for Independent Social Enquiry. “But if you’re working class in New York City, you’re crowded at every geographic scale of your life, starting first thing when you go into the bathroom. Your home is crowded. Your transportation is crowded. Your work is crowded. Your schools are crowded.”
Long before the coronavirus, wealth has been a matter of life and death in New York City. The rate of rate of premature death, or death before age 65, is consistently highest in the city’s poorest quarter of neighborhoods and lowest in the wealthiest, according to the city’s most recent vital statistics. In the bottom quartile, 244.8 per 100,000 people died before 65. The greater the neighborhood income level, the lower the premature death rate, with the wealthiest quartile having a rate of 113.9 — less than half that of the poorest.
While the life expectancy of Latinos in New York City, 82.4 years, is longer than any ethnic group, including whites, many measures of illness and death play out as the coronavirus has — along both racial and economic lines. Maps of the impact of premature mortality, drug-related deaths, gun violence, and even infant mortality resemble the path of the coronavirus through the city, with several neighborhoods in the Bronx, eastern Brooklyn, and the Rockaways that have few white residents suffering heaviest burdens, and Manhattan and wealthier sections of Brooklyn and Queens faring better.
Diabetes, one of the conditions that appears to put people with Covid-19 at highest risk of becoming severely ill, is also more common both among black and Latino New Yorkers and in low-income neighborhoods throughout the city.
Together, the trends mean that in the poorest neighborhoods — which also tend to have more people of color — life is shorter. Brownsville, Brooklyn, where average per capita income is $16,499 and only 1 percent of residents are white, also has the shortest life expectancy of anywhere in the city — 75.6 years. Meanwhile, Greenwich Village and Soho, where average per capita income is $121,326 and 74.6 percent of residents are white, have the city’s longest life expectancy: 86.7 years, almost 10 years longer.
The latest numbers from New York City show Brownsville to be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, and Greenwich Village and Soho to be the least affected, meaning that the life expectancy gap will only grow wider.