Race is shaping how Americans experience the coronavirus pandemic, as do wealth and the systemic disparities that have led to a racial wealth gap in many parts of the United States. If you lack wealth, you are more likely to suffer the pandemic’s harshest outcomes.
This is the conclusion of a new report, "COVID-19 exposes the impact of the racial wealth gap," co-authored by UNC Charlotte researcher Lori Thomas and James E. Ford, executive director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education.
Their work is another example of how UNC Charlotte fulfills its role as North Carolina’s urban research university. Thomas is director of research and faculty engagement at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and director of the Institute for Social Capital.
“To address the racial wealth gap is to change the systems and structures that have created and now sustain it—the same systems that determine COVID-19 outcomes,” Thomas said. “The pandemic is a sobering reminder that although a crisis is experienced by all, it is not experienced equitably.”
The researchers found that possessing assets such as an income, a home and savings can provide substantial protection from the most devastating physical and economic impacts of the virus.
In the United States, they report, white households have 10 times the wealth of black households and seven times the wealth of Latinx households.
Black and Latino people are more likely to work in many jobs deemed essential like grocery clerks and poultry workers and are underrepresented in management and other white-collar professions who are more likely to continue working remotely in safety. In addition, black and Latinx workers also are more likely to hold jobs that do not provide access to healthcare or paid sick leave.
White Americans, who are more likely to be homeowners, less often live in crowded housing or in homelessness. Reflecting disparities in the social determinants of health, black and Latinx Americans have higher rates of underlying diseases like diabetes and heart disease that increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.