Poor Americans Died From COVID at Twice the Rate of Rich People: Study

Americans who lived in poorer counties in the United States during the pandemic died from the virus at nearly twice the rate of people who resided in wealthier counties, according to a new study.

The study, released Monday by the Poor People's Campaign, showed that the 300 U.S. counties with the highest COVID-19 death rates had an average poverty rate of 45 percent, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the household median income for those counties were also an average of $23,000 lower than counties with lower death rates, according to the study.

The U.S. has recorded the most cumulative COVID-19 deaths per capita than any other large, high-income nation, the New York Times reported, with the Poor People's Campaign report showing that poorer counties have been disproportionately impacted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 980,000 people in the U.S. have died from the disease, edging the nation closer to recording 1 million deaths across the more than two years since the start of the pandemic.

The study, which looked at income and death data from more than 3,200 U.S. counties, showed that many of the top 20 counties in regard to COVID-19 death rates were located in areas of Georgia, Texas and Virginia that were sparsely populated, Reuters reported.

When the country was facing its Delta variant surge last year, the discrepancy in death rates between poorer and wealthier counties was even larger. The study showed that Americans living in counties with the lowest incomes died at five times the rate of those who lived in counties with the highest incomes.

U.S. COVID Death Rates
Americans who lived in poorer counties in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic died from the virus at nearly twice the rate of people residing in wealthy counties, according to a new study. Above, a respiratory therapist checks on a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Rush University Medial Center on January 31 in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Omicron variant wave also caused a higher disparity in death rates between poorer and wealthier counties, though it was not as severe as the Delta variant. The Omicron death rate was almost three times higher in counties that had lower median incomes, the report said.

Omicron was recently replaced by the Omicron BA.2 subvariant as the dominant strain in the U.S.

Vaccination rates in poorer counties were not fully able to account for the difference in death rates between income groups. The report said that county vaccination rates in almost every income group ranged between nearly total coverage, or 85 percent or more, to nearly no coverage, or less than 5 percent.

"Average vaccination rates are generally higher in the highest income counties than in middle-and low-income counties, however, these differences do not explain the whole variation in death rates in the later phases of the pandemic," the report said.

The Poor People's Campaign works to combat income inequality in the U.S., as well as "demand that the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy/militarism and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism all be ended," according to its website.

It collaborated with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in compiling the report, which was meant to fill a gap in information regarding the poverty status of people who have died from COVID-19.

Newsweek has reached out to the Poor People's Campaign for comment on the report's findings.

Update 4/4/22, 10:25 a.m. ET: This article was updated with additional information and background.