Report Race and Ethnicity. Download PDF. Press release. While it is true that COVID has affected everyone in some way, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but universal.
Black workers face two of the most lethal preexisting conditions for coronavirus—racism and economic inequality
Evidence to date suggests that black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID than white workers. Although the current strain of the coronavirus is one that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income, and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus — both economically and physically.
Though black and brown communities share many of the experiences that make them more susceptible, there are also important differences between these communities that need to be understood in order to effectively combat the adverse economic and health effects of the virus. This report, focused specifically on black workers, is the first in a series that will explore how racial and economic inequality leave workers of color with few good options for protecting both their health and economic well-being.
A companion report highlights conditions for Hispanic workers.
‘which death do they choose?’: many black men fear wearing a mask more than the coronavirus
There are three main groups of workers in the COVID economy: those who have lost their jobs and face economic insecurity, those who are classified as essential workers and face health insecurity as a result, and those who are able to continue working from the safety of their homes. Unfortunately, black workers are less likely to be found in the last group.
They have suffered record s of job losses over the last two months March —Mayalong with the ensuing related economic devastation. They also are disproportionately found among the essential workers in the economy today—continuing to go to their workplaces, risking their health and that of their families because they are unable to sustain adequate social distance from their co-workers and customers. The labor market has continued to deteriorate, as evidenced by massive s of unemployment insurance claims through the middle of May Shierholz As of May 16, nearly one in four workers have applied for unemployment insurance benefits, either in the regular program or through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, since stay-at-home orders first went into effect.
Furthermore, in the first Corona of job losses, date every workers who were able to file for UI, 37 additional workers tried to apply but could not get through the system to make a claim Zipperer and Gould The latest black data available to assess the impact of job losses for black and white workers separately is the Current Population Survey for April The labor market started deteriorating in March but fell off a cliff in April. While the losses have certainly continued, the April data gives us a first look at how black and white workers are faring.
Figure A shows the unemployment rates for white and black workers in February, March, and April of this year. February provides a benchmark for the pre-pandemic economy. As will be described in greater man later, the black unemployment rate has, even in the tightest of labor markets, been persistently and ificantly higher than the white unemployment rate. Both began rising in March and then skyrocketed in April.
Coronavirus in african americans and other people of color
As of the latest data, the black unemployment rate is And while these differences are notable, they mask even greater disparities that are apparent when we look at unemployment rates by race and gender. White men experienced a large, but relatively smaller, rise in unemployment.
Still, the white male unemployment rate is now higher than the highest point the overall unemployment rate reached in the depths of the Great Recession White women experienced the largest increase in unemployment, while black women now have the highest unemployment rate of the four groups analyzed.
It should be noted that across race, gender, and ethnicity, Hispanic women actually have the highest unemployment rate as of April —about one in five Latina workers are unemployed. Further data on Hispanic workers will be provided in a forthcoming report.
The unemployment rate is a commonly used measure of labor market slack. One limitation, however, is that it relies on would-be workers to either be on temporary layoff or have looked for work in the last four weeks to be counted as unemployed.
In this economy, with the health requirements to stay home and with sectors being completely decimated, it is likely that many would-be workers are not actively looking for work and therefore would not be counted in the official unemployment rate. For this reason, policymakers should look to other measures to determine when to turn on and off policy triggers to support workers and the economy Gould b.
One such measure is the employment-to-population ratio EPOPor the share of the population with a job.
Employment losses were stark across racial lines between February and April. Black workers saw slightly greater losses in employment than white workers This translates into an employment loss of More than one in six black workers lost their jobs between February and April.
As of April, less than half of the adult black population was employed. While the economic devastation is widespread, as we show in this report, black workers are less able to weather such a storm because they have fewer earners in their families, lower incomes, and lower liquid wealth than white workers. As with the unemployment rates, women suffered greater job losses than men. Black women experienced a drop in their EPOP of Put another way, At Note: White refers to non-Hispanic whites, Black refers to Blacks alone. The employment-to-population ratio is the share of the population who are working.
Rho, Brown, and Fremstad conducted an important and useful study of six sectors of the economy that are considered essential and in which most workers are on the front lines of the COVID labor market. Theirdisplayed in Figure Cshow that black workers make up a disproportionate share of these essential workers who are forced to put themselves and their family members at additional risk of contracting and spreading COVID in order to put food on the table.
Black workers make up about one in nine workers overall; they represent However, black workers make up about one in six of all front-line-industry workers.
They are disproportionately represented in employment in grocery, convenience, and drug stores While, in the near term, this protects them from job loss, it exposes them to greater likelihood of contracting COVID while performing their jobs. Notes: The front-line industry used here are the used in the CEPR report see Source below for more information.
Covid and african americans
Sample is a — five-year estimate. Given the disproportionate representation of black workers in front-line occupations where they face greater risk of exposure to Black, it is not surprising that illness and deaths are disproportionately found among black workers and their families. The ratios are even higher in some states: in Wisconsin and Kansas, the rate of African American deaths is more than four times as high as their share of the population in those states Meepagala and Romer Corona comparison, whites for a smaller share of deaths than their share of the population.
These weighted population distributions indicate that African Americans represent a larger share of the population in areas where outbreaks are occurring than their representation in the population overall Even ing for this fact, African Americans still have higher death rates than their weighted population shares would indicate. Notes: White refers to non-Hispanic whites, black refers to blacks alone. All shares are as of May 13, Weighted population shares reflect the racial distribution of the geographic locations where COVID outbreaks are occurring, and help to ascertain whether disproportionate deaths are occurring within certain racial groups.
The devastating effects of COVID on the economic and physical well-being of black Americans were man predictable given persistent economic and health disparities. In this section, we describe some of the underlying economic and health factors behind the unequal outcomes observed thus far. These same factors will ultimately prolong the effects of the pandemic on black workers and their families long after the immediate threat has passed.
Black workers and their families were economically insecure before the pandemic tore through the United Date. The pandemic and related job losses have been especially devastating for black households because they have historically suffered from higher unemployment rates, lower wages, lower incomes, and much less savings to fall back on, as well as ificantly higher poverty rates than their white counterparts.
This prior insecurity has magnified the current economic damage to these workers and their families. The next seven figures illustrate the differences in socioeconomic status between white and black workers, households, and families. Historically, black workers have faced unemployment rates twice as high as those of their white counterparts. When the overall unemployment rate averaged 3.
The virus is showing black people what they knew all along
This difference cannot be explained away by differences in educational attainment. Figure E shows that at every level of education, the black unemployment rate is ificantly higher than the white unemployment rate, even for those workers with college or advanced degrees.
Notes: White refers to non-Hispanic whites, Black refers to Blacks alone. Educational are mutually exclusive and represent the highest education level attained for all individuals ages 16 and older. Among the employed, black workers face ificant pay penalties. No matter how you cut the data, black workers face ificant pay gaps in the labor market, and research has shown that these pay gaps have grown since and in the decades before Gould a; Wilson and Rodgers On average, black workers are paid 73 cents on the white dollar.
Why are more black americans dying of covid?
Because of historic and current privilege in the labor market National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorderswhite men enjoy exceptionally high wages. Therefore, the gap between white men and black men is particularly stark. Black men are paid only 71 cents on the white male dollar. Black women, who face both gender and race discrimination, are paid even less—64 cents on the white male dollar.
As Figure F shows, black—white wage gaps persist across the wage distribution as well as at different levels of education in the pre-pandemic economy.
The black—white wage gap is smallest at the bottom of the wage distribution, where a wage floor—otherwise known as the minimum wage—keeps the lowest-wage black workers from being paid even lower wages. The largest black—white wage gaps are found at the top of the wage distribution and are explained in part by occupational segregation—the underrepresentation of black workers in the highest-wage professions and overrepresentation in lower-wage professions—and the pulling away of the top more generally. Similarly, across various levels of education, a ificant black—white wage gap remains.
Research roundup: how covid impacts african americans
Even black workers with an advanced degree experience a ificant wage gap compared with their white counterparts. Not only is black worker pay ificantly less than that of their white counterparts, but their benefits are as well. Along with health insurance, discussed in more detail below, two benefits are acutely important at this particular time: paid sick days and the ability to work from home. Figure G illustrates how black workers are less likely than white workers to enjoy these benefits.
The Family First Coronavirus Response Act was an important first step in providing vital paid sick days, but somewhere between 6. Obviously, those loopholes need to be closed, and workers—regardless of race or ethnicity—also need a permanent fix to this basic labor standard. Fewer than one in five black workers in the pre-pandemic economy were able to work from home.
This inability to keep their jobs and stay safe makes it even harder for black workers to maintain economic and health security during this difficult time. Sources: U. ificant gaps in both employment opportunities and wage levels translate into lower incomes and higher poverty rates in the pre-pandemic economy, as shown in Figure H. On top of decades of preferential wealth accumulation for white families versus black families Rothstein ; Darity et al.
At the bottom of the income distribution, the black poverty rate is two-and-a-half times the white poverty rate.