When a trio of health equity scholars set out to study racial and ethnic inequities during the pandemic, they failed, the researchers write in STAT. The data just weren’t there.
“Even in 2022, the degree of missing data on race and ethnicity in federal COVID-19 databases was simply too high,” the authors write. “How bad has the problem been? Far beyond bad.”
For example, in a CDC dataset of more than 50 million COVID cases, 34% were missing race and ethnicity information. (In contrast, 99% of cases included age and sex.)
The researchers, stymied by the lack of answers to their original questions, turned to studying the differences in how well states collect the relevant data. They found the lack of race and ethnicity data for those with confirmed COVID cases ranged widely, from 8.7% of cases in Utah to 100% in North Dakota.
“The pervasive missing-ness of racial and ethnic data amounts to nothing short of data genocide,” write the authors. “This categorical erasure of viral transmission networks, lives lost, and missed vaccination opportunities in data collected from Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Indigenous communities represents a dismissal that may reverberate inequities for generations to come.”