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A Completely Misleading Headline

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

The headline of your report – “Covid-19 Burden Falls Heavily on Middle-Aged Men” (Nov. 2) – is recklessly misleading, as is this summary on your site’s homepage: “With men in middle age dying disproportionately of Covid-19, scientists are looking for reasons not only in the underlying health risks, but also in biological and external factors.”

These claims convey the impression that middle-aged men’s risks of dying from Covid are not only especially high, but are higher than for any other demographic group. But in fact what the text of your report reveals is something entirely different and far less worrisome – namely, of all the middle-aged people who die from Covid, a higher proportion (about 2/3rds) are men rather than women.

The reality is that, while middle-aged men have a higher chance of dying from Covid than do middle-aged women, that chance remains minuscule, and significantly lower than elderly people’s chance of encountering such a death. According to the CDC, the Covid infection fatality ratio for all Americans ages 50-69 is 0.005, while that for Americans ages 70 and older is 0.054.

Also from the CDC: Of all Covid deaths in America, the percentage that is of men ages 45-54 is a tiny 3.6. The percentage that is of men ages 55-64 is only 8.2. In contrast, a whopping eighty percent of all Covid deaths are of people 65 and older; and nearly one third of all Covid deaths are of people older than age 84.

Your headline uses a minor truth about Covid to tell a major lie.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030