Tanzina Vega: Hey, everybody. I'm Tanzina Vega and this is The Takeaway at the start of another big news week. We're going to be talking about the economic recession that the coronavirus has spiraled into in just a few minutes and specifically how it's affecting Latina women. Spoiler alert, by the numbers it's pretty awful. We asked you, Latina listeners, how it's going and whether your work circumstances have changed because of the pandemic.
Kim: Hello, my name is Kim and I'm a Latina from a large southwestern city in the United States of America. I had been working full-time throughout the pandemic from the time our governor put restrictions on local businesses in March up until June. I started having issues with wearing a mask and doing my job. Long story short, I've been out on medical leave without pay. I am getting short-term disability insurance at about 60% of my base pay. Sometimes barely squeaking by and I totally understand that it's a whole lot more money than a lot of people get.
Long-term, I just don't know how I'm going to get back to work. I don't know what my financial situation is going to be, but during these quiet times and these uncertain times, I'm spending time with family. I'm in the park with my niece right now and we're doing paint by number. I'm just enjoying every day to its fullest whereas before I used to look forward to a vacation or spending time with family. Now I enjoy every single moment of it. Thank you so much.
Connie: Hi, my name is Connie. I'm calling from Santa Rosa, California and I am Latina working in this community where I work as a nurse practitioner. I've had the privilege of working remotely during the pandemic unlike many of the patients that I've served. A vast majority of cases of COVID-19 in the patients I care for have been in a lot of my Latinx patients who have jobs as cooks, janitors, and the like that they cannot do from the safety of their homes. As a Latina, it's been especially hard to witness how this disease has disproportionately affected the Latinx population within my own community.
Desiree: Hi, my name is Desiree Sevilla and I'm calling from Buckeye, Arizona. I happen to work in a caregiving field so for me this pandemic has not changed my circumstances as far as not having work but my hours have become longer and there is a greater need. We are in great need of more people who are willing to stand up and help others during this time. We have one of the only programs in Arizona who teaches people with no medical training how to become caregivers so that we are able to serve as many people as we can. We are devoted and we do all believe that we are devoted guardians. With the right PPE and training, I believe that we can get through this safely.
Tina: Hi my name is Tina and I work with senior citizens at Palm Beach County. I'm still working actively all my regular hours and I don't want to bring any disease home and affect my family members. However, at work, not everybody sees it the same so I'm having to protect myself constantly. It's a little frustrating when you stay home during the weekends and you don't really have any life outside of here, trying to protect your clientele and then the person sitting right next to you at the desk has been out all weekend and traveling and doesn't care for masks. I'm trying to keep my family safe but it's definitely a stressful time.
Tanzina: The coronavirus pandemic has brought an economic crisis that disproportionately affects women and it's only getting worse. According to a report from the National Women's Law Center, 865,000 women left the workforce in September, and of those who dropped out close to a third were Latinas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Latinas in September was 11% compared to 6.9% for white women. For more on this, I'm joined by policy analyst Elsa Macias who recently authored a report for Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, that looked at the pandemic's economic toll on Latinas in the United States and in California specifically. Elsa, thanks for joining me.
Elsa Macias: Thanks so much for having me.
Tanzina: As we mentioned, hundreds of thousands of Latinas have left the workforce during the pandemic. Why is it happening in such high numbers for this group in particular?
Elsa: Yes, it has been really disheartening to see what's happening with Latinas specifically. We found that they were the group that was most affected by job losses, especially through May, and part of the reason is that they tend to be overrepresented in job sectors that were most affected. For instance, in the retail sector, in the accommodations and food sector. For instance, they tend to be overrepresented in food services, nail salons, housekeeping, and hotels. Those are the sectors that were most affected when the non-essential businesses closed.
If you have a 42% drop in jobs in those sectors and you have these women overrepresented at those areas then they're going to be most affected. In addition to that, we saw that it was the women more so than the Latinx men who were affected. There's something happening here. This is not a trend that we've seen for the first time now. We tend to see that during recessions, Latinas do tend to be more affected. They tend to suffer greater economic losses during recessions like they did in the 2008 recession, and unfortunately, it takes them longer to recover than it does other groups.
Tanzina: Why is that? What are some of the structural factors at play here because we are in a moment where we're really looking at structural inequities and structural racism and structural sexism? What is it about this group of women Latinas in particular that creates that environment?
Elsa: I'm glad you mentioned that because even when we did control for some of the factors that are problematic. They were still left with some structural inequities but some of the issues that do come into play are that Latinas tend to have lower levels of education and so they're less protected when there are down to economic downturns. They tend to be in jobs that are more impacted by job losses They're not going to be in the kinds of positions that are going to be protected for longer in the economy. They have lower levels of education.
They also have, as I said, they are overrepresented in certain sectors. We also found-- we didn't do this particular analysis nationwide but in California, we also found that it was undocumented women who were most affected. If we're looking at what happened in May, for instance, the unemployment rate in California was 16.4%. Something like the 29% for Latinas, but it was 36% and a bit for undocumented Latinas. It was much much higher for undocumented Latinas so that's another issue that comes into play.
They also are less likely to be able to work remotely so one of the big things that happened for most of us who are fortunate to be able to retain our jobs we were able to work from home or work remotely however that may be and Latinas are less likely to be able to do that. If they can't work remotely, if you are working in housekeeping at a hotel and that hotel is closed, it isn't something that you can do from home.
Tanzina: Elsa, does sexism play a role in any of this, Elsa?
Elsa: Well we think so. We think that, as I said earlier, even when you control for some of the factors that may be at play in the higher number for Latinas, you still are left with some differences, some disparities that you can't explain in any other way other than through structural inequities, through sexism and through racism. We see that the employment rates are not as affected for Latino men as they are for Latinas so we're left with-- the only other explanations that we're left with are perhaps are sexism and racism.
Tanzina: What about when it comes to wages, Elsa? Have we seen those who have remained employed also have wage decreases?
Elsa: There have been wage decreases in various areas. Even for some emergency care physicians so certainly at the higher levels. Again, when you're looking at Latinas, they've been devastated. That's just adding to the existing wage gap which we also have. The wage gap is really egregious for Latina women compared to men across the US. The average Latina makes 54 cents for every $1 made by a white man.
Tanzina: And we should note that that's also the lowest among all women of color. Latinas are disproportionately the lowest paid, aren't they?
Elsa: That's right. They tend to have fairly high workforce participation levels but they're paid really poorly. Again, if we control for education, we control for other factors we still have a wage gap and that's a wage gap that is still much lower than the 79 cents on average that the white woman gets compared to every dollar a man makes. Again, even controlling for all of these other factors we're left with the fact that there's probably some sexism at play here. There are probably some structural inequities again that they're being faced.
You have women who already have less money, they tend to be less wealthy, Latinos in general, tend to be considerably less wealthy than the white population. They have less savings even before recession hits. Even though across the board, Latinas have been doing much, much better on many metrics particularly on education and as small business owners, they are much more vulnerable as a group. They are doing economically much, much worse at this point, even than most other demographic groups.
Tanzina: We talked a little bit about undocumented women. I'm wondering what happens to this population for people who are undocumented or people who are citizens in terms of getting economic relief from the state or Federal Government. We know that for many Americans, the unemployment benefits have run out, eviction moratoriums are also running out. What does this tell us about the Latina population, whether they are documented or undocumented?
Elsa: Well, they're facing some very dark consequences in the next couple of months, in fact, and not just them, it's across the board. Something is going to be happening in the next few months as those housing moratoriums are lifted. These are people who are much less likely to reach out for help, especially if you're undocumented. In California, the undocumented population had access to some assistance of $500 and remember that they did not have access to unemployment relief, which others look to as a lifeline, they didn't have that and a lot of them were afraid to reach out, to get the benefit that was made accessible to them.
When people tended to reach out, it was usually out of desperation. A lot of these people are also more vulnerable to housing losses because they're more afraid of complaining, of saying, "Hey, this is not something that's acceptable." They're more afraid of reaching out to legal aid so they're extremely vulnerable. They've been more likely to lose their jobs. They tend to have fewer resources, fewer savings, and they also tend to have fewer resources in terms of where to turn for assistance.
This is a population that is extremely vulnerable also because they're more likely to take pretty much any job that they can, more likely to face the consequences of contracting COVID and of dying. Here in California, although Latinos are 39% of the population, they are 61% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 49% of COVID-19 deaths. In any direction that you look really, Latinas are a group that are really suffering, even despite the fact that they're doing so much better or had been doing pre-pandemic so much better on several metrics.
Tanzina: Elsa, do we know is there any breakout on women who are Latinos who are white-collar women? Thre a lot of white-collar women have also had to make accommodations and leave the workforce unwillingly because of the pandemic. Is there any information there?
Elsa: That's right. I don't have specific data for that, but one thing I can tell you is that we pulled Latina business owners, small business owners, and they reported that they were, for the most part, taking the lion's share of household duties and childcare duties while their children are now at home. If they're lucky enough to still hold a job or if they're lucky enough that their businesses are still existing, then they still have their they're still coming. They're still taking on the lion's share of responsibilities at home. It's an enormous amount of pressure.
The same thing goes for really all women. We have found that for the most part, women do tend to take the greater responsibility. If you have your kids at home, then that means that you've got that added. You're trying to do your conference calls online and do your work online while you're also trying to make sure that your kids are getting a good education. It really does add up to a lot of stress.
I also wanted to point out by the way that Latinos have been overwhelmingly disproportionately affected by issues in the educational field. We already know that K-12 students are already about nine months behind that's one full academic year, just from what they missed in school last year, March, April, May, June and it's really heartbreaking because we expect that that's going to be a trend that's going to continue.
Since these are children who have less, they tend to go or Latinos tend to go to under-resourced schools and that means that they're going to have problems accessing the Internet broadband. They're probably going to pack teachers who are unprepared for remote learning. These Latino students have less support for English language learners and their Spanish speaking parents. We don't know what it's going to be like this year, since obviously, some schools are trying to do a better job, but we expect that Latino students are going to be falling even farther behind than they already are.
Tanzina: Elsa Macias is a policy analyst. Elsa, thanks for joining me.
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