Blog Post

Insight: COVID-19 Death Rates and Demographic Factors

By: Mike Hollingshaus and Emily Harris

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute has released an updated report on Utah’s COVID-19 per-capita-death rates. Our analysis indicates that during the first year of the pandemic, Utah’s structural demographic factors (age, race/ethnic, and sex composition) account for half of Utah’s lower-than-average death rate (compared to the U.S.). The remaining difference is attributable to other factors such as disease epidemiology, institutional and personal behaviors, or social networks.

The graphs below illustrate the COVID-19 death rate differences between Utah and the U.S. across different demographic characteristics. With the exception of two data points, Utah’s death rates are always lower than the U.S.’s death rates.

Provisional Death Rate (per 100k) Comparisons by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, United States and Utah, April 2020-2021


Covid-19 is generally deadlier for older age groups, males, and racial and ethnic minorities. This means that even if Utah’s Covid-19 response mirrored the U.S.’s response, we would expect Utah to have a lower Covid-19 death rate. However, this report’s decomposition analysis goes past describing the differences, and allows us to quantify how much of these differences are based on Utah’s unique demographic structure alone.

The analysis was challenging for several reasons. By far the largest challenge is that the data are still so fresh and incomplete. This includes not only the COVID-19 statistics, which are underreported at the national level, but also the delayed 2020 decennial census data. Still, we are confident that a large portion of Utah’s lower COVID-19 death rate can be