Published Date: May 26, 2021

Summary: The toll of COVID-19 on smaller communities within broad racial/ethnic categories has been exposed in media reports, memorials, and data collected by special interest groups. However, in many public-facing data systems, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) and Asian categories are grouped together or may not even be reported. 

Using the California Comprehensive Death File (Dynamic) on all COVID-19 mortality in 2020, authors extracted data on 177 NHPI and 3,835 Asian lives lost to COVID-19 in 2020 in California (single-race, non-Hispanic NHPI and Asian). They estimated subgroup proportions within the NHPI and Asian aggregate categories using the one-year 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data, and then applied the distributions of subgroups within the categories to California Department of Finance 2020 Population Estimates. These population estimates were used as denominators to calculate crude mortality rates (number of deaths per 100,000 population).

Findings: Compared to overall state estimates (84 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000), the overall NHPI death rates are higher (123 per 100,000), while the overall Asian category death rates are lower (74 per 100,000). However, in the disaggregated analysis, seven Asian groups exceeded the aggregate Asian and state averages, with some groups having rates more than 1.5 times that of the aggregate, and among NHPI Samoans experienced death rates much higher than that of aggregate NHPI group.

Note: This project is part of a larger multi-racial research study that is supported by the National Urban League, a historic civil rights and advocacy organization with 90 affiliates in 300 communities across the country. The full report, The COVID-19 Communities of Color Needs Assessment Phase 1, inclusive of components of this study, will be available on the National Urban League's website,​,​ very soon. The Needs Assessment Phase 1 was funded by from The W. K. Kellogg Foundation, JPB Foundation, Ford Foundation, The California Endowment, Weingart Foundation, and The California Wellness Foundation.​

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