Mask or No Mask? Ethnicity Makes a Difference

Roz Brown Public News Service
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, data show Black people are at least 3.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19, and Latinx people nearly twice as likely, as whites. Photo Credit: cottonbro / Pexels

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A behavioral study of people during the COVID-19 pandemic shows not only a partisan divide about who will wear a mask, but also an ethnic divide.

The study, which began at the start of the outbreak, tracked who would and wouldn’t wear a mask to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.

Study co-author Gabriel Sanchez, a political-science professor and director of the University of New Mexico’s Center for Social Policy, said researchers initially thought men of color might decline to wear masks, fearful of drawing unwanted attention from police.

“We actually found the opposite,” he said. “Although men of color are much more likely to say they’re worried about being essentially identified as a potential criminal by security police, they’re still much more likely to wear a mask in public.”

Sanchez said the study also showed that people living in states governed by Democrats are “significantly more likely” to say they’ve changed their behaviors to help limit the spread of COVID-19, including practicing social distancing and changing travel plans.

Asian Americans, at 82% — compared with 66% for whites — said they’d worn masks. Sanchez speculated that they attach less stigma to the issue, because Asian countries have long used face coverings to protect themselves from the effects of air pollution.

“Racial and ethnic minorities, and particularly Asian Americans, were the highest likelihood of wearing a mask in public,” he said, “but all non-whites essentially were more likely to wear a mask than whites were.”

Due to increased cases of COVID-19, New Mexico renewed some health orders last week — including a requirement for face coverings in public places, enforceable by a $100 fine.

Information about the study is online at