Update: Urban Density and COVID-19 Fatalities

The latest fatality rates as of December 5, 2021 from COVID-19 are shown in Figure 1. This is derived from data reported by usafacts.org. The data includes all the pandemic period, that began in the first quarter of 2020.

Fatality rates data continue to show an association between higher county urban densities and their fatality rates. Urban density is used as a surrogate for the overcrowding that increases exposure density. The issue is not density per se, however, but consistent with crowding which is often found in dense urban areas.

Death rates remain near or below the national death rate in counties with urban densities of 1,000 to 10,000 per square mile or below (Figure 2). These counties account for 91% of the nation’s population (267 million out of a total population of 328 million). Death rates are higher at densities above 10,000 per square mile and below 1,000 per square mile.

The death rates in counties with higher urban densities have improved materially since our first report (July 9, 2020). The earlier, higher rates were influenced by the pre-lockdown fatality data, with improvements as lockdowns were typical for more than a year. Figure 3 illustrates the fatality rates by urban population density category.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy firm located in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He is a founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute, Houston, a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg and a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University in Orange, California. He has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. His principal interests are economics, poverty alleviation, demographics, urban policy and transport. He is co-author of the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey and author of Demographia World Urban Areas.

Mayor Tom Bradley appointed him to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission (1977-1985) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich appointed him to the Amtrak Reform Council, to complete the unexpired term of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman (1999-2002). He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life and Toward More Prosperous Cities: A Framing Essay on Urban Areas, Transport, Planning and the Dimensions of Sustainability.