Group of Latin American Workers

How the Pandemic Is Disproportionately Hurting Latinx Workers

6 min read • Dec 08, 2020 • Grant Olsen

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across our nation. Many small business owners have had to permanently close their doors, causing a harsh trickle-down effect on their workers. Aside from businesses in a handful of industries that are thriving during the pandemic, the vast majority of American workers are feeling the strain as the pandemic continues to disrupt operations and cut into profits.

While these impacts may be widespread, the degree to which they’re felt varies on many factors. Sadly, it has become clear that certain underrepresented groups are feeling a disproportionately devastating impact.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is placing major challenges on the US workforce,” explains a workforce report. “In particular, Black and Latino workers, despite suffering from major upticks in unemployment, have been disproportionately overrepresented among workers who cannot work from home, placing them at elevated risk of contracting the coronavirus. Furthermore, these in-person workers (although also true of those working from home) require assistance with the care of children and other dependents. People who have lost their jobs or who have been furloughed face grim prospects of finding employment…Undocumented immigrants, many of whom have been on the front lines providing basic services and food supplies to the American public, have been completely left out of stimulus funds, as have their US-citizen spouses.”

Let’s look closer at why Latinx workers are impacted more by this pandemic and how this unfortunate trend affects their families. Due to the disproportionate amount of cases in their communities, Latinx individuals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Research indicates they are actually as much as 3 times more likely than their white peers to be stricken by the virus.

There are many reasons for this disturbing trend. For starters, Latinx business owners and workers are employed predominantly in the high-contact industries most heavily affected by the pandemic, such as retail and hospitality. Due to factors such as the wealth gap that oppresses generations of Latinx individuals, they are also more likely to suffer from the types of chronic conditions that can lead to more serious cases of COVID-19. They are also less likely to have health insurance or the ability to consistently access quality healthcare.

Faced with these daunting challenges, Latinx individuals are not just more likely to contract COVID-19: they’re also more likely to die from it. Research from the University of New Hampshire reveals just how severely the pandemic is punishing people of color.

“All segments of the population have been impacted, but people of color have borne the brunt of infections from the coronavirus and deaths from COVID-19,” says a recap of the study. “Nationally, Latinos and Blacks are contracting the virus at rates 3 times higher than whites, and Blacks are dying at a rate 3.6 times and Latinos 2.5 times higher than whites. Furthermore, Blacks and Latinos have sustained major setbacks to their economic sustainability.”

The Latinx workers who are able to recover from COVID-19 will face major employment struggles. Tens of millions of jobs have been lost in America during the pandemic, and this issue has particularly impacted people of color. More importantly, Latinx individuals have a more difficult time recovering jobs after a loss compared to other racial demographics. This inability to get back to work, due to factors such as limited job experience and lingering health issues, extends and exacerbates the challenges of the pandemic.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the economic devastation of the pandemic is striking Latinx communities harder than just about anyone. Even when you account for contributing factors such as education level or age of the worker, people of color face a difficult disparity.

“Clearly, younger workers tend to have the highest levels of joblessness, but within all age groups, whites have much lower unemployment rates compared to Blacks and Latinos,” explain the researchers from the University of New Hampshire. “In most cases, the unemployment rates of workers of color are at least 50% higher than those of whites. For example, Blacks and Latinos 45–54 years of age have unemployment levels about twice as high as those of their respective white counterparts.”

It’s worth noting that the employment challenges of the pandemic extend to all US demographic groups that have traditionally experienced discrimination and limited opportunities. Thus, Latinx women have faced even harsher impacts than their male counterparts. This is troubling, as Latinx women had made strong progress in the workforce since the Great Recession. Now, they have regressed back to unsustainable levels.

In all racial/ethnic demographics, men have lower unemployment rates than women. But that disparity is more distinct for women of color. Latinx women have the highest unemployment rate of all female groups, nearly double that of white women.

This is undoubtedly a difficult situation for many families in the Latinx community, made worse by the fact that the CARES Act has long since expired. Those benefits provided a crucial safety net before ending in July. Since that time, the challenges of unemployment have become even more pronounced for Latinx workers. These include:

  • Defaults on mortgages
  • Inability to make rent payments
  • Food insecurity for children
  • Inability to pay for healthcare

Given the harsh realities that many families are facing, relief can’t come soon enough. Another stimulus package similar to the CARES Act could be on the horizon. But nobody knows when that might happen or what it will ultimately look like.

In the meantime, hopes hang on the widespread distribution of an effective vaccine—and recent developments have made this story more exciting.

“For the second time this month, there’s promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” says a healthcare update from CBS News. “Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the US and around the world. Moderna said its vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective—news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US.”

Hopefully, 1 or more vaccines will be ready for the American public by next spring. If the vaccine’s efficacy is as good as the trials suggest, then our nation’s underrepresented groups will be able to reverse many of the damaging trends that have been brought on by the pandemic. And no group stands to benefit from that as much as the Latinx community.

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Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.