Racism Experience Among American Adults During COVID-19: A Mixed-Methods Study

Dejun Su, Khalid Alshehri, Jessica Ern, Baojiang Chen, Liwei Chen, Zhuo Chen, Xuesong Han, Keyonna M. King, Hongmei Li, Jian Li, Yan Li, Tzeyu Michaud, Lu Shi, Athena K. Ramos, Ming Wen, Donglan Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: Despite escalating racism in the United States during COVID-19, few studies have identified correlates of racism experience among Americans using nationally representative data. This study seeks to quantitatively identify correlates of racism experience and qualitatively categorize racism experience and its coping using nationally representative survey data. Methods: Based on data from the "Health, Ethnicity and Pandemic Survey"(N=2,506), a nationally representative survey conducted in October 2020, multivariable logistic regression was estimated to examine the association between self-reported racism experience and selected correlates. Thematic analysis was conducted to qualitatively classify types of racism experience and related coping strategies. Results: When asked whether they had been discriminated or unfairly treated during COVID-19 because of their racial/ethnic background, 19% non-Hispanic Asian and Black respondents said yes, followed by 15% among Hispanics and 3% among non-Hispanic Whites. Besides significant correlates of racism experience identified at the individual and household level, three contextual factors at the neighborhood or state level were associated with lower odds of racism experience, including living in a blue state (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=0.69, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.50-0.95; reference category: red state), living in the top third of the neighborhoods in the sample in terms of racial diversity (AOR=0.65%, 95% CI: 0.42-0.99; reference: bottom third), and coming from neighborhoods with a median population age of 35-39 (AOR=0.67, 95% CI: 0.46-0.98; reference: younger than 35). Prevailing coping strategies against experienced racism included social avoidance, direct confrontation, seeking social and religious support, resorting to hobbies for relief, and taking legal actions. Conclusion: Racism experience is not only correlated with factors at individual level, it is also associated with contextual factors such as political climate, neighborhood diversity, and population age structure. Future efforts in supporting victims of racism might be more cost-effective by focusing on the identified vulnerable groups and related contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-563
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Equity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022


  • COVID-19
  • coping with racism
  • correlates
  • racism experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Information Management


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