COVID-19 Equity Facts

The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on low income communities and communities of color in Linn County, mirroring data from the rest of the state and the country.

  • Linn County is 88.4% white (2018 census estimate)
  • The confirmed COVID-19 cases in Linn County are 53.1% white, 32.6% communities of color, and 14.2% unknown (5.19.2020 data).
  • In the state of Iowa, 43% of the positive cases are from communities of color, with 22% of the deaths (5.19.20 data). The death rate may be a lagging indicator, however, since data from other regions of the country show that communities of color are dying at a much higher rate than whites.

There are a number of reasons behind this disproportionality, some of which are listed below.

Workforce & Employment Benefits:

  • People of color are disproportionately part of the “essential” work force, including service industry jobs and frontline health care staff. In Iowa, they are overrepresented in meat packing plants.
  • “Essential” workers are much more likely to work in jobs without health insurance or benefits, including paid sick leave.
  • Working from home is not an option for most essential workers.

Housing and Environment:

  • In Iowa, low-income workers are more likely to live in apartment complexes and crowded housing situations that speed viral transmission.
  • The legacy of housing segregation and redlining practices continues to manifest itself in concentrated communities of color. These communities are more likely to have substandard rental units and be located in areas with higher exposures to toxic chemicals and health-compromising pollution.

Health Care & Health Insurance:

  • Service industry jobs Communities of color have lower rates of health insurance and lack access to health care, which contributes to higher rates of asthma, diabetes and other conditions that can worsen infections.
  • Communities of color have historically had disparate health outcomes attributed by multiple research studies to implicit bias in the healthcare system. Unfortunately, one local COVID-related cancellation was a Black Women’s Maternal Health Symposium specifically focused on high maternal death rates, which is one of the manifestations of disparate health outcomes (organized by Horizons, University of Iowa College of Nursing, The Black Maternal Health Collective and Johnson County Public Health).

Educational Implications:

  • Educational disparities persist for low-income children and children of color for numerous reasons, including school funding formulas and stagnant state support for public schools, as well as limited opportunities for quality early childhood education during the critical birth-five years.
  • The pandemic is causing further educational setbacks for low-income children and children of color due to lack of appropriate technology, lower rates of internet connectivity, and parental work responsibilities that limit parent availability to support learning.


For more information about philanthropy’s response to COVID-19, refer to the Philanthropy Service Organization statement on equity. The Iowa Council of Foundations was one of the signatories of this letter.


Additional Reading: