Life expectancy drops for Native Americans due to COVID-19

Native Americans experienced disproportionately high rates of deaths from COVID-19 due to poverty, crowded housing, high rates of chronic disease, employment in frontline jobs, and limited access to quality health care.

Less is known about the pandemic’s effects on life expectancy for this population, which makes up 2% of the U.S. population.

Noreen Goldman of Princeton University and Theresa Andrasfay, Ph.D. ’20 of the University of Southern California investigated life expectancy at birth in 2020 and 2021 — when COVID-19 rates were surging — compared to 2019.

Life expectancy is a metric of population-level mortality in a given year, and it is sensitive to deaths at younger ages.


The pandemic set Native Americans further behind other major racial and ethnic groups in terms of life expectancy. For a high-income country, these figures are shockingly low, the researchers said, and far below every country in the Americas except for Haiti.