Reparations for Black American descendants of persons enslaved in the U.S. and their potential impact on SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


In the United States, Black Americans are suffering from a significantly disproportionate incidence of COVID-19. Going beyond mere epidemiological tallying, the potential for racial-justice interventions, including reparations payments, to ameliorate these disparities has not been adequately explored.


We compared the COVID-19 time-varying Rt curves of relatively disparate polities in terms of social equity (South Korea vs. Louisiana). Next, we considered a range of reproductive ratios to back-calculate the transmission rates βi→j for 4 cells of the simplified next-generation matrix (from which R0 is calculated for structured models) for the outbreak in Louisiana. Lastly, we considered the potential structural effects monetary payments as reparations for Black American descendants of persons enslaved in the U.S. would have had on pre-intervention βi→j and consequently R0 .


Once their respective epidemics begin to propagate, Louisiana displays Rt values with an absolute difference of 1.3-2.5 compared to South Korea. It also takes Louisiana more than twice as long to bring Rt below 1. Reasoning through the consequences of increased equity via matrix transmission models, we demonstrate how the benefits of a successful reparations program (reflected in the ratio βb→bw→w ) could reduce R0 by 31-68%.


While there are compelling moral and historical arguments for racial-injustice interventions such as reparations, our study considers potential health benefits in the form of reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk. A restitutive program targeted towards Black individuals would not only decrease COVID-19 risk for recipients of the wealth redistribution; the mitigating effects would also be distributed across racial groups, benefiting the population at large.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Richardson, ET; Malik, MM; Darity, WA; Mullen, AK; Morse, ME; Malik, M; Maybank, A; Bassett, MT; Farmer, PE; Worden, L; Jones, JH

Published Date

  • May 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 276 /

Start / End Page

  • 113741 -

PubMed ID

  • 33640157

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7871902

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-5347

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0277-9536

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.113741


  • eng