Trends Of Racial Disparities In Covid-19 Outcomes In US Cities

By Ciara O’Sullivan | October 19, 2021

The COVID-19 Health Inequities in Cities dashboard was created to compare and track inequities related to the COVID-19 pandemic across a multitude of dimensions, including across subgroups of individuals within cities, across neighborhoods within cities, and across cities. The newest addition to the dashboard focuses on describing and comparing inequities by race/ethnicity in COVID-19 outcomes over the course of the pandemic.

Tracking race and ethnicity data quality over time across cities

The final update, also in the “Compare Across Cities: Inequities: Outcomes: Individual Level” tab, includes a visualization displaying the percentage of data missing race/ethnicity information from each city and the change over time. Figure 3 shows how four highlighted cities (Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington) have varying percentages of missing race/ethnicity information within the incidence data reported to the CDC over time. While only cities that met certain thresholds for the level of cumulative missingness within the data are included in the analysis, we can see in Figure 3 that the percent of cases missing race/ethnicity data ranges from 3% in Washington Q2 2020, all the way to 41% in Portland Q3 2021. Interestingly, for many cities, the percentage of missingness in race/ethnicity data trends upward over time. A decrease in the data quality due to missingness makes it more difficult to fully understand and address health inequities.

Race/Ethnicity Data Quality in COVID-19 Outcomes by City Over Time

This panel displays how many of the reported COVID-19 outcomes in a given city is missing Race/Ethnicity information over time, using the CDC COVID-19 Case Surveillance Restricted file. You can hover the highlighted trend lines for details.

Figure 3. Percent of reported cases missing race/ethnicity information over time in select US cities

The emergent nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought constant changes and additional challenges; there have been several waves of infections, novel variants, changing policies, and innovative preventative measures, like vaccines, introduced which all change the landscape of this pandemic. This dashboard is an important tool to help evaluate how inequities related to race/ethnicity may have changed over time in the context of all these developments. Understanding a fuller picture of the disproportionate impacts of this pandemic on different populations is vital to ensure that health equity is at the forefront of the response to the next health crisis.


Shiels, Meredith S., et al. “Racial and ethnic disparities in excess deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, March to December 2020.” Annals of internal medicine (2021).