America has an inequality problem and the coronavirus crisis is making it worse.
The pandemic is leaving few people untouched, but America’s weakest demographic groups are shouldering the worst burden through job losses and front-line work, against a backdrop of a higher risk of infections and lower savings.
The average black and Hispanic families are already bringing in less income that the average white family, but they also have a smaller buffer of liquid assets like savings and investments, according to a new report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
This leaves these demographics most vulnerable to the aftershocks of the coronavirus crisis.
Black and Hispanic workers are also more likely than white workers to be in jobs that pay by the hour. That makes them more susceptible to layoffs. Twenty-two million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits over the past month.
“As families face job loss and income uncertainty resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, this report shows that black and Hispanic families will bear the brunt of this economic crisis,” said Diana Farrell, President and CEO of the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
This also means that government programs to help the country through the outbreak — including the expanded unemployment insurance and stimulus payments — are particularly important for the black and Hispanic communities.
Outside the coronavirus crisis, the report’s finding underscores the persistent racial gap in America’s economy. And this inequality is making minorities more susceptible to economic hardship during hard times, including the current outbreak.
“Policymakers should consider these findings to address the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and the racial wealth gap more broadly,” said Darrick Hamilton, executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.
Black and Hispanic families earn between 71 cents and 74 cents for each dollar earned by the median white family, according to the JPMorgan report. But the racial gap in liquid assets between is far larger, and that means these minority families have a much thinner cushion to fall back on to weather the storm of economic shocks.
For every $1 of liquid assets of a white family, the median black family has only 32 cents, while the median Hispanic family has 47 cents.