Before the pandemic began in 2019, Hispanic, Black, and White Americans’ life expectancy was 82, 75, and 79, respectively. The higher life expectancy of Hispanic people compared to other races in the United States may surprise many.
Long-running debate on the Hispanic paradox
Dubbed the “Hispanic paradox,” this phenomenon was first discovered in the 80s and has had its legitimacy at the center of the longest-running debate. The debate has elicited several theories, such as the “healthy immigrant” hypothesis, suggesting that immigrants who move to the US are often healthier than the rest of their countries’ natives. Another popular hypothesis is the “salmon bias,” which suggests that immigrants who fall seriously ill are likely to return to their countries.
More experts also attribute the high life expectancy to Hispanic individuals’ low smoking rates. The exact cause is not clear, and things are definitely not made easier by US polls that find US-born Hispanic individuals to have lower life expectancy than those who migrate later.
However, new studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show a steep decline in life expectancy for people of color. Notably, the gap between Black and White individuals’ life expectancy widened to 6 years, while the gap between Hispanic and White Americans narrowed to 3 years.
Evidently, COVID 19 reduced the life expectancy of all communities but not equally. The impact was mostly on communities of color.
Unequal healthcare system
These figures, though unalarming, act as a reminder of how minority groups like Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are vulnerable in the US. A result of a long-running gap in the economy and healthcare system. Many BIPOC individuals live on the brink of financial collapse, with the slightest sudden events such as the 2008 Global financial crisis almost bringing them to their knees. They also receive limited medical care, with most of them having no access to health insurance. A global pandemic is therefore likely to affect them more than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts.