More Panic Porn Reporting

by Don Boudreaux on December 14, 2021

in Current Affairs, Media, Myths and Fallacies, Risk and Safety

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Editor:

You should be ashamed of this utterly misleading headline: “Young Latinos are dying of COVID at an alarming rate – the effects could be felt for generations” (Dec. 9). And you should be embarrassed by the accompanying “report.”

Given this headline, we readers expect to encounter information on just what this “alarming rate” is. Yet reading your report dashes this expectation. We do learn that in California “Latinos ages 20 to 54 have died from COVID-19 at a rate more than eight times higher than white people in the same age group,” but this fact tells us nothing about the actual rate at which “young Latinos” – curiously, by the way, defined to include people in their mid-50s – are dying from Covid.

Had reporter Alejandra Reyes-Velarde read the paper to which she links as the source of her information, she would have learned that the total number of all Californians ages 20 to 54 who died of Covid during the time studied by the paper’s authors – February 1, 2020, through July 31, 2020 – is 1,131 (which is 11.1 percent of all Covid deaths in CA during that time period). She’d have learned also that Hispanics accounted for 48.2 percent of all Covid deaths in that state. Assuming that this same death rate holds for the age group 20-54, the number of Hispanics of this age who died of Covid in CA is 545.

There are approximately 20 million Californians aged 20-54. With California’s population being 32.2 percent Hispanic, there are thus approximately 6,440,000 Hispanics of this age in California. Covid therefore killed in California, during the time period reported on by Ms. Reyes-Velarde, 545 out of the 6,440,000 Hispanics aged 20-54 – or 0.0085 percent of this group.

And so while in reality this death rate isn’t remotely “alarming,” the poor quality of your reporting certainly is.

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

(For alerting me to the LA Times “report” I thank Tim Townsend.)

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