New Economic Policy Institute report looks at the effects of COVID-19 on Latinx workers
Thursday, August 27, 2020
COVID-19 has revealed the economic and health crises facing Latinx workers. The stark details are in a new report from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.
According to the report authors — director of EPI’s program on race, ethnicity, and the economy, Valerie Wilson; senior economist Elise Gould; and research assistant Daniel Perez — the distress of Latinx workers exceeds that of their white counterparts. “Despite the seemingly universal reach of the pandemic, COVID-19 has been far from ‘the great equalizer’ as some have proclaimed,” said Wilson in a statement.
In the 35-44 age group, for example, Latinx workers are nearly nine times as likely to die from COVID-19 as whites are. In a similar social indicator, two-thirds of white workers can earn employer-paid sick days versus 45.9% of Latinx workers with the same benefit.
Latinx workers are three times as likely as whites to lack employer-based health insurance are. In the COVID-19 moment, this elevates the risk of the pandemic’s transmission.
Large parts of the economy shut down in mid-March to shelter in place and slow the spread of COVID-19. However, that policy hit the labor force unevenly.
Working at home for the professional-managerial class is one thing. Such an arrangement is a different kettle of fish for other worker categories.
“As a group, Latinx workers face a double bind,” according to the EPI report. “They are the least likely to be able to work from home to avoid coronavirus exposure and the most likely to have lost their job during the COVID-19 recession.”
Hourly income for Latinx workers is $0.75 for every $1.00 a white man earns. The gap between Latina workers and white males is bigger, $0.64 hourly compared with $1.00.
“The deprivations faced by the Latinx population, like other marginalized populations, creates predictable patterns of harm from health hazards such as COVID-19,” said Rhonda Rios Kravitz, dean emerita at Sacramento City College and member of Alianza, an immigration reform advocacy group, via email.
The EPI researchers hold that the Trump administration has worsened economic and health disparities for Latinx workers during COVID-19. Two examples are “mandating meatpacking industries to reopen and excluding undocumented Latinx workers from unemployment insurance benefits and stimulus payments,” according to the EPI report.
Relative to the latter, stimulus payments to Latinx workers without documents are a loss to the businesses they frequent. This demand shock disproportionately hits small businesses struggling to survive.
David Bacon is an author and journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “The dangerous situation of these workers is a product of the immense obstacles they face in organizing unions or collective action to protect themselves at work,” he told MultiBriefs in an email.
Disasters such as COVID-19, as Hurricane Katrina showed 15 years ago in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, reveal preexisting class and race divisions.
“Latinx households were economically insecure and suffered inequitable access to health care well before the coronavirus pandemic tore through the United States,” according to EPI’s Perez. “The effects of COVID-19 on the economic and physical well-being of Latinx Americans were sadly predictable — but no less devastating.”
The United Farm Workers declined a request to comment.
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