COVID-19 cases in US counties: roles of racial/ethnic density and residential segregation

Tse Chuan Yang, Seung won Emily Choi, Feinuo Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate how racial/ethnic density and residential segregation shape the uneven burden of COVID-19 in US counties and whether (if yes, how) residential segregation moderates the association between racial/ethnic density and infections. Design: We first merge various risk factors from federal agencies (e.g. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with COVID-19 cases as of June 13th in contiguous US counties (N = 3,042). We then apply negative binomial regression to the county-level dataset to test three interrelated research hypotheses and the moderating role of residential segregation is presented with a figure. Results: Several key results are obtained. (1) Counties with high racial/ethnic density of minority groups experience more confirmed cases than those with low levels of density. (2) High levels of residential segregation between whites and non-whites increase the number of COVID-19 infections in a county, net of other risk factors. (3) The relationship between racial/ethnic density and COVID-19 infections is enhanced with the increase in residential segregation between whites and non-whites in a county. Conclusions: The pre-existing social structure like residential segregation may facilitate the spread of COVID-19 and aggravate racial/ethnic health disparities in infections. Minorities are disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus and focusing on pre-existing social structures and discrimination in housing market may narrow the uneven burden across racial/ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • county
  • racial/ethnic density
  • residential segregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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