Estimating the Unknown: Greater Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Burden After Accounting for Missing Race and Ethnicity Data

Watch Video Abstract


Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous persons in the United States have an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and death from COVID-19, due to persistent social inequities. However, the magnitude of the disparity is unclear because race/ethnicity information is often missing in surveillance data.


We quantified the burden of SARS-CoV-2 notification, hospitalization, and case fatality rates in an urban county by racial/ethnic group using combined race/ethnicity imputation and quantitative bias analysis for misclassification.


The ratio of the absolute racial/ethnic disparity in notification rates after bias adjustment, compared with the complete case analysis, increased 1.3-fold for persons classified Black and 1.6-fold for those classified Hispanic, in reference to classified White persons.


These results highlight that complete case analyses may underestimate absolute disparities in notification rates. Complete reporting of race/ethnicity information is necessary for health equity. When data are missing, quantitative bias analysis methods may improve estimates of racial/ethnic disparities in the COVID-19 burden.

Read Paper