Black and Latino Workers More Likely to Experience Difficulties during COVID-19

Color of Change, the National Employment Law Project, Time’s Up, and ILR Worker Institute have joined together to issue a new report, “Foundations for a Just and Inclusive Recovery: Economic Security, Health and Safety, and Agency and Voice in the COVID-19 Era.” The report highlights the role of structural racism and sexism in exacerbating economic and health disparities. The researchers find that Black and Latino workers, women, and low-pay workers experienced decreased economic security and healthcare access as a result of COVID-19. The authors suggest policy responses such as building worker power to hold employers accountable and replacing siloed programs and policies with multi-faceted solutions.

The Just Recovery Survey, administered in the fall of 2020, measured workers’ experiences amid COVID-19. A total of 3,100 individuals completed the survey, all of whom were in the labor market or expected to rejoin in the future. In order to examine differences by race and ethnicity, the survey oversampled Black and Latino respondents.

The survey included several indicators of economic security, including income losses, access to unemployment support, ability to pay bills, and housing security. Thirty-three percent of all workers lost income between March and October of 2020, but these rates were much higher for low-pay workers and Black and Latino workers. Forty-five percent of Latino workers, 42% of Black workers, 44% of workers in the lowest pay quartile lost income during this period. Black, Latino, low-pay workers, and women were also more likely than their white, male, high-pay counterparts to see their unemployment claims denied.

Forty-two percent of all workers reported challenges paying their bills because of COVID-19, though the pandemic’s financial impact affected groups differently. Among workers in the lowest pay quartile, 65% of non-white respondents reported financial difficulties compared to 52% of white respondents. A higher proportion of women reported financial difficulties compared to men, at 45% and 38%, respectively. For some, these financial challenges led to housing insecurity, such as eviction and foreclosure. Ten percent of Black workers either experienced or received notice of eviction or foreclosure compared to 2% of white workers. Further, 44% of workers in the lowest pay quartile, 42% of Black workers, and 39% of Latino workers expressed concern that they would face eviction or foreclosure in the coming year.

The report also exposes disparities in health outcomes and healthcare access. Forty-two percent of Black workers and 40% of Latino workers reported knowing someone who had died from COVID-19, compared to 23% of white workers. Healthcare affordability also varied significantly by race and income. Sixty-nine percent of non-white workers reported not being able to afford the health services they needed, compared to 49% of white workers.

The report can be found at: