Sociology, College of Liberal Arts
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
IAS Faculty Fellow, Fall 2020
Race and Deaths from Infectious Diseases in the United States, 1900–1950
Two years ago, in a research project that was not initially meant to be about race, I discovered that U.S. white mortality during the 1918 flu pandemic was less than what U.S. Blacks experienced every year. This summer, I calculated that the same is likely to be true of the Covid-19 pandemic: it is likely that white mortality this year will still be less than the best recorded Black mortality. I plan to use my IAS residency to expand this work in two directions. First, historically, how did racial and ethnic inequality in mortality change as U.S. racial categories shifted in the early and mid-twentieth century? Second, in a contemporary context, what would it look like to treat racial inequality in lifespan with the same urgency that we treat pandemics?
Elizabeth Wrigley-Field is an assistant professor in the Sociology department and the Minnesota Population Center. A demographer, she focuses substantively on mortality, race, and historical infectious disease, and also develops mathematical models designed to shift perspectives between different levels of aggregation (such as individuals and populations).
This series features an IAS Residential Fellow—a Faculty Fellow, Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow, or Community of Scholars Fellow. Each profile is written by the participant as a way to share their projects, goals, and experiences as part of their time at the IAS.