Black Americans will likely face a more devastating aftermath than any other ethnic group due to the coronavirus, including greater joblessness, bankruptcy, and other adverse outcomes.
Those were among revelations from a new research report, “COVID-19: Investing in Black Lives and Livelihoods,” by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
The report offers projections on how badly the pandemic will impact black communities nationwide. The fresh research builds on research McKinsey had conducted for over a year focusing on the economic opportunities presented by greater financial inclusion of black Americans. After that work documenting the longstanding disparities facing black Americans, it was apparent they could experience disproportionately negative outcomes as a result of COVID-19, both from a health perspective and a livelihood perspective, says McKinsey & Co. partner Shelley Stewart III, who helped write the new report.
Some of the top revelations from the latest analysis include:
- Black Americans are almost twice as likely as white Americans to live in the 566 counties at the highest risk of economic and public health disruption from the current pandemic. 30 percent of the U.S. population lives in these high-risk counties, but 17.6 million black Americans (43 percent of the black population) live in these counties. Some 127 counties in the highest-risk decile are home to only 10 percent of the U.S. population, compared to 18 percent of the black population.
- Black Americans will likely sustain more damage across every stage of the wealth-building journey. About 7 million jobs, which represent 39 percent of jobs held by black workers, are now vulnerable to temporary or permanent disruption. Some 40 percent of revenues from black-owned businesses are in the top five most vulnerable sectors–including leisure and hospitality and retail– compared to 25 percent of revenues for all U.S. firms. Thirty-three percent of nursing assistants, 38 percent of orderlies, and 39 percent of psychiatric aides, are black. African American workers are risking their lives and health to provide goods and services that matter to society. Black Americans are overrepresented in essential jobs, and work in the 10 lowest-paid jobs that are both high contact and considered essential services. Some 48 % of blacks surveyed report regularly using food-assistance programs, versus 31 percent of white respondents. Such services are likely to come under significant strain and interruptions due to the pandemic.
- Black Americans are about 30% more likely to develop a severe illness from COVID-19 compared to white Americans. Blacks are more likely to be at increased risk for contracting COVID-19, have lower access to testing, experience more severe complications from the infection, and even suffer from more secondary effects.
Based on currently available testing data, 10 of the 16 states where 65 percent of black Americans live were below the median testing rate for all states. African Americans are already twice as likely as their white peers to die from diabetes, hypertension, and asthma–all risk factors that exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms.
Protecting Yourself From Hardship
So what can black Americans do to uphold their quality of life and protect themselves from COVID-19-related hardships?
Stewart says structural problems need structural solutions, but he indicates that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything individuals can do. He recommends, of course, black Americans follow health and hygienic guidelines administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization–in addition to practicing social distancing.
He adds that black Americans should be in touch with community health workers, faith-based organizations, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to get information and resources about protecting themselves and their families.
On the economic support front, Stewart suggests black business owners connect with local organizations such as the Black Chamber of Commerce, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), churches, and nonprofits that can help black-owned businesses and residents to access recovery funds.
“For Black Americans who are still working, I’d encourage you to ask your company about hazard pay and other compensatory options as you work to protect yourself and your family during this challenging time.”
Stewart claims if McKinsey’s recommended actions are realized by the public, private and social sectors, black Americans will have better access to health care, more opportunities for financial inclusion, and increased support from employers and community organizations–the essential components to protect their quality of life.