New Report Calls for Increased Investment in Black Americans During COVID-19

By Devin Simpson

A new study finds that black Americans will experience disproportionate financial and health burdens from COVID-19 due largely to systemic health, economic, and housing barriers.

McKinsey & Company’s new report, “COVID-19: Investing in Black Lives and Livelihood,” finds that black Americans are almost twice as likely to live in counties considered at high risk of health and economic disruption due to COVID-19, making them more vulnerable to the pandemic’s short- and long-term economic and health impacts. The report defines high-risk communities using five key indicators: underlying health conditions, poverty rates, number of hospital beds, percentage of people in severe housing conditions, and population density.

The report finds that most black workers are in positions considered essential and black Americans are overrepresented in vulnerable populations, making them more likely to contract the disease. Coupled with a lack of access to insurance, healthcare, and unbiased quality treatments, this has led to higher fatality rates among black COVID-19 patients. The report’s authors note that these disproportionate consequences are due to longstanding racist policies and practices that have perpetuated poor health outcomes for black Americans.

While COVID-19 will have economic impacts for the country as a whole, black Americans will be among the hardest-hit communities. Prior to the pandemic, black communities were already subjected to severe wealth and income disparities. According to researchers, 39 percent of jobs held by black workers are at risk due to COVID-19 and 40 percent of black-owned businesses are in the most vulnerable industries such as retail and leisure. As such, many black communities are more likely to lose out on income and see disruptions to their wealth-building opportunities, putting the economic future of the black community in jeopardy. While these disparities have always existed, report authors believe the pandemic has put a national spotlight on the consequences of widespread inequities.

In order to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on black communities, the report’s authors recommend a multi-layered approach that mobilizes governments, community stakeholders, and employers. In the short-term, they recommend increases in testing and tracking the virus along racial lines to better identify and fill in gaps in health care and community services. They also recommend support programs that help individual families and black-owned businesses in financial distress, such as loan forgiveness or small business recovery funds. To address the long-term consequences of COVID-19, the report recommends increased investment in public health, digital infrastructure, public education, and economic development that would help create and sustain more equitable communities for black Americans.

Read the full report here.