Black women twice as likely as white men to suffer economically from COVID-19
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The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting and exacerbating economic inequality in the U.S. New numbers reveal how risk associated with the virus is playing out for different demographic groups. We’re learning that risk is far higher in communities of color.
New research from McKinsey & Company explores the impact of COVID-19 on black Americans, looking at the industries and geographic areas where black people are working.
“Thirty-nine percent of black jobs are at risk, versus 34% for the broader population,” said Shelley Stewart, a partner at McKinsey. “And, yeah, some folks may say it’s only five percentage points, but that’s a pretty big difference.”
That could be close to a million additional black jobs at risk.
That’s echoed by research conducted by LeanIn.org, which found that risk of job loss is already a reality for many black women in particular.
“We know black women are twice as likely as white men to say they’ve been either laid off, furloughed or had their hours or pay reduced because of the pandemic,” said LeanIn chief executive Rachel Thomas.
One example of many: 48-year-old Zaborah Roane in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was working at an early childhood education center with about 10 toddlers before she was laid off due to COVID-19.
“I do miss them, now. I don’t even know if they’ll like even remember me,” Roane said. She also doesn’t know when she’ll go back to work. She’s getting some unemployment insurance and financial help from her union.
Roane was unsurprised to learn black women were feeling the economic impact more than others.
“We’re the ones that are in these industries that don’t have health insurance, that don’t have paid sick time off. We don’t make a lot of money. So we’re suffering a lot right now,” Roane said.
According to Thomas, the current economic shock has been exacerbated by inequality present before the pandemic.
“Women, on average, are paid 18% less than men here in the U.S.,” she said. “It’s worse for black women. They make 38% less than white men. It’s worse from Latinas. They make 45% less than white men.”
Thomas says those lower wages translate to less savings, which means less of a safety net when women are faced with an unexpected job loss of an unknown duration.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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