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Life Health > Life Insurance > Term Insurance

Why Republicans Faced a Greater Risk of Death Than Democrats in Late 2021

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Some Republicans’ reluctance to get COVID-19 vaccinations led to a big gap between the total excess death rate for Republicans and Democrats in Florida and Ohio in late 2021, according to three Yale University researchers.

The overall excess death rates for Republicans ages 25 and older and Democrats ages 25 and older in those states were about the same up until April 2021, when all adults in those states were eligible to get COVID-19 vaccines, the researchers say.

The overall excess death rate for Republicans then increased to be about 5 percentage points higher than the overall excess death rate for Democrats, until a giant new wave of COVID-19 cases began, in August 2021. That month, the overall excess death rate was about 20% for Democrats and about 35% for Republicans.

In December 2021, the last month in the researchers’ data set, the overall excess death rate was about 10% for Democrats and more than 30% for Republicans.

Jacob Wallace of the Yale School of Public Health and two colleagues, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham and Jason Schwartz, have reported those findings in a working paper available at The paper is also available behind a log-in wall via the National Bureau of Economic Research.

What It Means

Wallace and his colleagues looked at data from just two states during a four-year period.  Some organizations — including the Children’s Defense Fund, an organization chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — have contended that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines have been exaggerated and the risks minimized.

Wallace and his colleagues contend that their analysis shows that political affiliation has clearly affected mortality risk since COVID-19 vaccines became available.

“We estimate higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats after vaccines were widely available — and not before — and these differences were concentrated in counties with lower vaccination rates,” the researchers write.

“The results suggest that the well-documented differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republicans and Democrats have already had serious consequences for the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the United States,” the researchers add.

If the researchers’ results hold up to other researchers’ scrutiny, the paper may mean that agents and advisors might need to take clients’ attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines and other preventive measures into account when forecasting the clients’ life expectancy.

Death Rates and Excess Death Rates

In the researchers’ paper, “excess death rate” refers to the increase in the odds that an individual will die in a given year, not to the actual death rate.

In Florida, for example, about 1.3% of adults ages 25 and older were dying in a given year before early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic came to light.

If the pandemic caused an annual excess death rate of 10% for Florida adults in the 25-and-up age group in a given year, that would mean that people in that age group had a risk of about 1.1 times 1.3% — or 1.43% chance — of dying in that year.

Similarly, a 30% increase in the Florida excess death rate for the 25-and-up age group would mean that the people in that group had a risk of about 1.3 times 1.3% — or 1.69% chance — of dying in that year.

The Paper

A working paper is a research paper that has not yet gone through a full peer review process.

Wallace and his colleagues based their analysis on death data for 2018 through 2021 from Datavant, an organization that has information on about 80% of U.S. deaths.

The researchers then linked the death records to Florida and Ohio voter registration files for 2017. They filtered out any voters who had died who were registered as independents or as members of third parties.

The dataset did not include information about the vaccination status of the voters who had died. To factor vaccination status in, the researchers used county-level vaccination rate data for June 1, 2021, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The excess death rate figures reflect the number of deaths from all causes, not just deaths directly caused by COVID-19.

In addition to the fact that the paper includes death and voter records for only two states, the paper includes data for only a limited period of time, and it may leave out periods when Republican views and behavior would have led to Republican voters having lower excess mortality rates than Democratic voters.

(Image: Adobe Stock)


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