How Coronavirus Could Worsen the Racial Wealth Gap in the United States

The impact of coronavirus on unemployment and healthcare is predicted to affect black and Latinos at a disproportionate rate, raising questions about what can be done to ease the suffering and close the racial wealth divide in America.

2 minute read

April 8, 2020, 6:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Transit in a Pandemic

Kevin Benckendorf / Shutterstock

Amidst dramatic spikes in unemployment and widespread loss of healthcare benefits, a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, growing concerns mount over the severity of hardship experienced in communities of color. 

“Government data shows the outbreak is more concentrated in major US metropolitan areas like New York City, New Orleans and the nation's southeast where greater percentages of black and Latino Americans live. In New York City, the virus is disproportionately affecting lower-income neighborhoods in Queens, Harlem and the Bronx, which have denser populations of immigrants of color, African Americans and Hispanics,” writes Chauncey Alcorn.

The impact in urban centers is echoed in the national labor market where those sectors taking the greatest financial hit disproportionately staff Black and Latino employees. Moreover, greater rates of underlying health conditions in Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans compared to whites could mean an increased need for medical care, potentially resulting in medical debt and more difficult recovery. 

To address the disproportionate impact of these financial and medical threats, the Senate-approved $2.2 trillion stimulus package is a start, but is not a sufficient remedy to the increasing racial wealth disparity, says the Institute for Policy Studies' "Inequality and the Common Good" program director, Chuck Collins. Providing financial support and helping Americans to avoid debt is the kind of intervention that could narrow the racial wealth gap, adds Collins. 

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