Black workers are facing greater health and economic difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study done by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Elise Gould, senior economist at EPI, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss how the coronavirus has disproportionately affected black communities and people of color.
“What we’re seeing is that there are underlying health and economic conditions that have magnified the problems for African American workers and their families in this country,” she said.
“Black workers are often, when they’re compared to white workers, are least able to weather the storm because they don’t have the same kind of safety net that some other workers have. They’ve suffered higher unemployment rates for a lot longer.”
Gould highlights that many black workers don’t have the wealth or liquid savings to be able to help them get through the pandemic period.
Recent unemployment figures plainly illustrate the disparity, Gould said. “When you look at the unemployment rates, they’re significantly higher. Let’s say for black women compared to white men; it’s 16.9% for black women and 12.8% for white men. So that difference is significant. That is meaningful. That represents a lot of people in the economy. More people that are hurting, in terms proportionate to their population sizes, in terms of black women versus white men.”
Gould also notes that occupational segregation is a reason why black women are being impacted more than their white counterparts.
“Black women tend to be in certain occupations rather than in others. Historical discrimination has put them in that place; they are less likely to be promoted to certain positions … So there’s all sorts of racism at play there, that wage gap is persistent,” she said.
“However, if you look across education groups, it’s not simply a matter of getting more education. Even college-educated black workers have a much higher unemployment rate. They see a much larger wage gap with white college-educated workers.
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Effects of COVID-19
In discussing COVID-19, Gould noted that black workers are more likely to be frontline workers and thus have a higher risk of bringing the coronavirus home to their families.
She also notes that many in the Black community are less likely to have a bank account, which makes it more difficult to partake in federal stimulus efforts.
“What we know are black households are less likely to have a bank account. So for the unbanked, it’s hard to get them those [stimulus] checks. And so you think you might be imposing your race neutral policy. It does not get enacted like that across the country.”
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.