Job Uncertainty Looms Larger for People of Color

An ongoing survey shows that people of color have been disproportionately affected by the economic effects of the pandemic, and large numbers say they would need more education if laid off.

April 23, 2020
 
Istockphoto.com/JLGutierrez

Most Americans -- 62 percent -- are worried they will lose their jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak and the economic downturn it has caused, according to an ongoing survey from Strada Education Network. More than 50 percent have so far lost jobs, hours or wages.

People of color are more worried. Almost three-quarters, 72 percent, of Latino and Asian Americans fear losing work, as do 68 percent of black Americans, compared with 57 percent of white Americans.

Strada’s survey on the pandemic's impact on education and work has entered its fifth week. During a webcast Wednesday, researchers pointed out a key theme emerging from the weeks of results: people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak.

“With the widespread disruption of work and loss of hours and jobs and income, it’s playing out differently across different communities,” said Dave Clayton, senior vice president for consumer insights at Strada. “The Latino American population are more likely to lose hours or shifts or wages, but the black American population is more likely to actually be laid off and lose a job.”

In past weeks, Strada found that a third of Americans say they would need more education should they lose their job and seek another. This week researchers had gathered enough responses to break down results by race. More than a third, 38 percent, of Latino Americans and 36 percent of Asian Americans believe they would need further education should they lose their job.

"For once I would love to finally dispel this myth that Latinos don’t value education," said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, during a webcast about the survey results. "We’ve known for years that’s not the case. It still comes up in policy conversations. When you ask them if they think they can get additional education, you’re seeing the answer is yes."

Clayton plans to dig into the additional education question further. Strada has added a question to the survey about what outcomes people will seek when enrolling in education programs within the next six months.

"Would it be a credential, certificate or license?" Clayton asked. "Would it be one or more courses to acquire a skill? Would it be one or more courses for personal interest? Would it be to pursue a degree -- an associate or undergraduate degree?"

He also wants to know how confident respondents are in knowing what skills they would need to replace a job or find a new one, and whether they know where to go to acquire those skills.

Over all, anxieties about the pandemic are trending downward. Clayton said that from its peak, overall concern about the coronavirus outbreak and its impact is down about eight percentage points. Today, just below half of respondents are feeling generally worried or believe the outbreak will negatively impact their finances.

“That surprises me,” he said. “I thought, ‘deaths have quadrupled in the last two weeks, unemployment has doubled again,’ and yet there’s stability in people’s expectations about the problems.”

He wonders if it’s because the adrenaline of the initial outbreak is wearing off.

“People are monitoring the news less intensely than they were two or three weeks ago, and they’re continuing with their lives,” he said.

The week-four survey was conducted between April 15 and 16 and gathered responses from 1,016 individuals.

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