Monday, April 13, 2020

Why are minorities/immigrants being hammered by Covid-19?

In Europe, Covid-19 is having a disproportionate impact on immigrant populations. That is a puzzle because immigrants tend to be younger (and consequently less obese) than native-born citizens.

In the United States, Covid-19 is hammering inner-cities and African-Americans.

The knee-jerk reaction is to assume sinister intent. But can the information be viewed through the lens of how epidemics spread and, more importantly, can key factors be identified and mitigated against?

Population density
Population density can be looked at from two different perspectives.

At a macroscopic level, the Bronx has 34,000 people per square mile. Large swaths of Detroit have 9000 people per square mile. Eaton Rapids Township (where I live) has 100 people per square mile. Chesterfield and Sunfield townships have fifty and sixty people per square mile respectively.

Immigrants and minorities tend to live in high-density, urban areas.

At a more granular level, immigrants and minorities tend to pack more residents into a household. They have more kids. Multiple generation tend to share dwellings. Several, single guys tend to share a single apartment.

Food Desert
Urban areas tend to be under-served by grocery stores.

Convenience stores are a major source of groceries. They tend to have many visitors per hour and there is much opportunity for one person in the neighborhood to infect a boat-load of people.

In the suburbs and rural America, the distances encourage weekly or monthly shopping trips. We purchase groceries less frequently and the stores we patronize tend to be larger, brighter, less crowded and better ventilated.

Urban leaders are baffled by large, grocery retailers' reluctance to open stores in urban areas. The reasons given: Punitive taxes, high rates of inventory "shrinkage", poor roads and utilities and mediocre police response simply draw shrugs from the leaders.


  1. Where I live, blacks and Mexicans that I see in places like Wal-Mart are mostly obese. A long with obesity cones a host of other co-morbidities such as HBP, high cholesterol, heart problems, and diabetes. The high Covid-19 death toll among blacks in pkaces like New Orleans is reflective of their OBESITY and related co-morbidities - othong more.

    1. In Michigan, the big difference is in number of cases, not mortality rates. African-Americans are over-represented by a factor of 3 relative to population.

      Also, the epidemic is blowing up in counties that contain large, legacy cities. Legacy cities experienced white flight, eroding tax bases, an overhang of pensioned city workers, underfunded pensions and creeping tax rates.

      The point is that some of the factors can be holding inner-city youths to the same social distancing standards everybody else is held to.

      Some will be almost impossible to change, like the number of residents in a given domicile.

      Other factors will be somewhere in the middle, like the food desert. If, for instance, the food desert creates an African Water Hole scenario for the virus, then maybe the viral opportunity can be managed around with a delivery service where the food is packaged and sterilized in the back of the truck (ozone comes to mind) and then delivered by PPE clad delivery people.

  2. Quality of nutrition has a HUGE effect on health. Early childhood healthcare and nutrition lays the foundation. Rickets comes to mind.

  3. Don't forget that many of these immigrants show outright disdain for American norms of personal space, hygiene, and sanitation and that big cities are not only tightly packed but also tend to be dirty.
    When toilets aren't used, or aren't used properly, all kinds of diseases get spread - COVID is reported to survive in feces, as are many other diseases that are resurging in big cities such as tuberculosis, typoid, measles, etc.

  4. I think viral load due to the population density may also have something to do with it. If you get exposed by a single person who is trying to social distance, your body gets exposed to less viral load, and would have a better chance to build up immunity than if you got exposed to several people who were less than diligent to their social distancing.

  5. ref food desert (whatever that really means!) and "inventory shrinkage": I suspect that you are aware that Wal Mart had one of their "Sam's Clubs" on Lansing's south side, and they closed it. I cannot recall where I heard it, but I recall being told that something like a million dollars of inventory "walked out of the door" each ear and, being something that could not continue, it did not.

    It occurs to me that "food deserts" are wounds that are inflicted upon the majority of urban folks (of whatever melaninocity) by the sociopathic minority.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I agree. The pain of living in a food desert is self induced.

      So is the loss of housing stock due to onerous regulations and pro-tenant/anti-landlord court systems. tells of tenants (who don't even pay their own rent) deciding to go on "rent strike" to stick-it to the man.

      As one anthropologist phrased it "...segments of society who are incapable of appropriately discounting undesirable, future outcomes.


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