Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about the potential for nationwide repercussions if California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ousted in Tuesday’s recall election. Newsom’s removal could fuel efforts to dismantle vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, and embolden Republicans who will battle to take control of both chambers of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. It could also undermine California’s reputation as a progressive trendsetter. “When California sneezes, the rest of the country catches a cold,” said Yaroslavsky, a former Los Angeles County supervisor and city councilman. California’s ouster of a Democrat would be a “political earthquake” that could shake the rest of the nation, he added. Yaroslavsky also spoke to the Jewish News Syndicate about the role of the Jewish electorate, noting, “There’s an undemocratic piece to this recall, which I think offends the sensibilities of the Jewish community.”
Latinos in non-union jobs were seven times more likely than Latinos in labor unions to fall into unemployment during three key months early in the pandemic, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
The report also found that Black and Latino union workers had higher wages than their counterparts in non-union jobs during the pandemic, but that both groups still received lower pay than white workers in union jobs.
Following previous studies demonstrating that Latinos faced disproportionate public health and economic consequences during the pandemic, the new report highlights the benefits that labor unions can provide to vulnerable workers during an economic crisis, said Sonja Diaz, the founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
“Labor unions gave us child labor regulations, work-free weekends and the collective power to demand better conditions,” Diaz said. “Our report shows that during economic downturns such as the one we faced amid COVID-19, union jobs can also provide much-needed stability for workers and their families.”
The report’s authors analyzed data from the Current Population Survey, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, to understand the impact of the pandemic on employment rates, wages and union protections between January 2020 and June 2021. The time frame was chosen so the researchers could compare conditions from the outset of the pandemic in the U.S., the months of uncertainty that followed and the time period when policy actions began to spur an economic recovery.
Unionized workers of all races and ethnicities were less likely than non-union workers to experience job loss during the height of the economic downturn, but the report found that the effect was most pronounced among Latinos. For example, from April to June 2020, the employment rate for Latinos in labor unions fell by only 2.5%, while the employment rate for all union workers declined by 10.2%. During the same period, the employment rate for Latinos who were not in labor unions declined by 18.5%, representing a loss of nearly 4.3 million jobs.
Diaz said the nation’s economic recovery is inextricably tied to how well Latinos can bounce back from the setbacks they experienced during the pandemic. The report recommends policy actions including passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, a bill that would make it harder for employers to obstruct organizing efforts. The legislation is currently awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.
“The economic devastation spurred by COVID-19 made it clear that it’s essential to build more resiliency and strengthen wages for the nation’s workers, particularly for groups that are most vulnerable during a crisis,” said UCLA research analyst Misael Galdamez, the report’s lead author. “Unionization is an important tool to give workers the economic stability and dignity that they deserve.”
Previous research by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has examined other aspects of how the pandemic has affected the nation’s economy and labor force, including one study which found that Latinas were more likely to drop out of the workforce than workers from other demographic groups.
A report by Kaiser Health News and Science Friday on the growing suicide crisis among people of color cited research by Brian Keum, assistant professor of social welfare. While overall suicide rates in the U.S. decreased in 2019 and 2020, rates in the Black, Hispanic and Asian American communities continued to climb in many states. Suicide rates also remain consistently high for Native Americans. Although the suicide rate is highest among middle-aged white men, young people of color are emerging as particularly at risk, the report noted. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have exacerbated the crisis, and researchers are looking into the role played by job losses, social isolation, racial tensions, mental illness and social media use. The report cited Keum’s preliminary research findings, which indicate that experiencing racism and sexism together is linked to a threefold increase in suicidal thoughts for Asian American women.
An Orange County Register story on frustrations surrounding California’s rental assistance program, which made $5.2 billion available to help low-income tenants and their landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic, cited research led by the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies at UCLA Luskin. Surveys conducted in July 2020 and March 2021 found that, in Los Angeles County, renters’ debt rose sharply as the pandemic dragged on. Almost half of those surveyed in March turned to friends and family to help them pay rent, 58% dipped into their savings and 37% took out an emergency or payday loan, the study found. “That’s a lot of debt that people have accumulated, and they will be left out in the cold if we end up moving forward with a program that just pays your rent,” said Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville, co-author of the study. The research was also highlighted by Commercial Observer and Multi-Housing News.
Paid sick and medical leave is a powerful tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases and ensuring all workers have access to treatment, yet tens of millions of American workers lack coverage. The U.S. is one of just 11 countries in the world without a national, permanent paid medical leave policy, according to new research led by Jody Heymann, distinguished professor of public health, public policy and medicine. Further, unpaid leave provided by the U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is restricted by eligibility rules that have created marked racial and gender gaps, said Heymann, who directs the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. The study, published in Health Affairs, included these findings:
- In the private sector, 18.7% of Latinas, compared to just 8.4% of white men, lack access to FMLA leave because of its minimum annual hours requirement.
- Requiring one year with the same employer excludes higher shares of Black (22%), Indigenous (22.9%) and self-identified multiracial (27.7%) workers than white workers (19%).
- Over a third of private-sector workers are employed by a business with fewer than 50 employees, making them ineligible for FMLA benefits.
The study’s analysis of data from 181 countries found that providing paid sick and medical leave to all workers — including the self-employed, a group commonly excluded from key social security and labor protections — is readily achievable. “Only by ensuring we design our paid leave policies to reach every worker can we protect public health and take one important step toward rectifying the longstanding and devastating racial and socioeconomic inequalities that have only intensified during this pandemic,” Heymann said.
By Stan Paul
UCLA Luskin Professor of Public Policy Manisha Shah co-authored a study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, that showed Latinos had much higher odds of testing positive for COVID-19 than whites.
The USC-UCLA study, conducted in a Northern California regional medical center with a diverse group of adults enrolled in a county Medicaid managed care plan, also indicated a marked racial disparity in odds of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Researchers noted that, while the coronavirus has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minorities nationwide, in their California study, infection, hospitalization and death were higher for Latinos, but not Black patients, relative to white patients.
The researchers point out that socioeconomic differences may confound racial and ethnic differences in testing and that “the role of sociodemographic, clinical and neighborhood factors in accounting for racial/ethnic differences in COVID-19 outcomes remains unclear.”
The study included data from more than 84,000 adult Medicaid patients at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. The researchers hypothesized that, because all of the patients had Medicaid, “racial/ethnic disparities in testing and outcomes would narrow when controlling for demographics, comorbidities and ZIP code-level characteristics.”
They also expected that these characteristics would be reduced relative to previous studies, given similar insurance coverage, household income and access to health-care providers. Among their conclusions, the researchers highlighted that racial and ethnic disparities depend on local context, citing studies from other states with differing results.
“The substantially higher risk facing Latinos should be a key consideration in California’s strategies to mitigate disease transmission and harm,” they recommend.
“We learned a lot about testing and hospitalization disparities through this study,” Shah said. “We recently implemented a randomized controlled trial with our Contra Costa County partners to better understand vaccine take-up among the vaccine hesitant.”
Shah said that the research team is testing the role of financial incentives, reducing appointment scheduling frictions, and provider messages on COVID-19 vaccine take-up in this diverse Medicaid managed care population.
“We are excited to share the results from this vaccine take-up study very soon,” Shah said.
Additional authors include Mireille Jacobson, associate professor at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and senior fellow at the USC Schaeffer School for Health Policy and Economics; Tom Chang, associate professor of finance and business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business; Samir Shah, CEO of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center; and Rajiv Pramanik at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center & Health Centers, Contra Costa Health Service.
A Los Angeles Times story on landlords who skirt anti-eviction rules enacted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak cited research from the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge (CNK) at UCLA Luskin. A Times analysis of data from the Los Angeles Police Department revealed more than 290 instances of potential illegal lockouts and utility shutoffs across the city over 10 weeks beginning in March. The largest share of those police calls was in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods in South L.A. CNK research shows that members of these communities, who faced disproportionately high rent burdens even before the pandemic, often work in food service and other sectors with significant wage reductions and job losses due to COVID-19. “This is a web of urban inequality,” CNK Director Paul Ong said. “We could talk about housing, we could talk about jobs, we could talk about health. But the truth of the matter is all these things are interlocked.”
Urban Planning Distinguished Professor Michael Storper co-authored a paper assessing COVID-19’s anticipated impact on the economic, political and social fabric of cities for the journal Urban Studies. As the world continues to adapt to the pandemic, “we remain in a period of extended social experimentation, with households, business, the professions and the public sector all in the game,” wrote Storper and co-authors Richard Florida of the University of Toronto and Andrés Rodríguez-Pose of the London School of Economics. Throughout history, major metropolitan areas have proved resilient to epidemics and other crises and catastrophes, they wrote. “Nonetheless, even if large cities are unlikely to lose their prominent role, they will be transformed and changed — in the short term and even well after mass immunity.” The authors predict that “social scarring” based on the continued fear of coronavirus infection will continue to influence residence choice, travel and commute patterns, and the economic viability of certain businesses and social gathering spaces. The future of downtowns hangs in the balance as remote work is normalized and online shopping grows even more common. “Cities might increasingly become cultural and civic places rather than shopping destinations or office hubs,” they wrote. Despite its horrific toll, the pandemic offers a window of opportunity where cities can reset, re-energize and call old practices into question, the authors conclude. “As cities rebuild and recover, … they can pilot efforts to confront the widening chasms between classes and neighborhoods and prepare for the many threats of climate change.”
A new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative examines unemployment figures for Latinas as well as changes in the number of Latinas in the U.S. labor force since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The analysis also examines the reasons for Latinas’ exit from the labor force, including three main drivers:
- Latinas are disproportionately employed in leisure, hospitality and related low-wage industries that were particularly vulnerable to pandemic-related closures.
- A lack of access to education and training for higher-wage opportunities disincentivizes Latinas’ participation in the labor force overall.
- Latinas are disproportionately responsible for family care obligations versus Latino men, and they are more likely to stay at home than U.S. mothers of other racial backgrounds. That burden was exacerbated during the pandemic because of the closure of schools and day care centers.
“A strong economic recovery that prepares us for a prosperous future is dependent on a stable Latino workforce made up of both men and women,” said Kassandra Hernández, a research analyst at the initiative and a co-author of the report. “Yet this analysis clearly shows that Latinas are being left behind, which could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.”
Before the pandemic, Latinos were expected to make up the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. labor force over the next decade, with women in particular driving that trend, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The UCLA analysis found that between 2019 and 2029, the number of Latinas in the workforce is expected to grow by 25.8%, far outpacing other demographic groups. The growth of Latinas in the labor force is expected to be nearly nine times the growth rate among white women.
The analysis also found that Latinas experienced the highest unemployment rates at the start of the pandemic — with a record high of 20.2% unemployed in April 2020. After that, unemployment rates for Black men and women were generally higher than they were for Latinas, but Latinas’ unemployment rates remained consistently higher than the national average and were almost two times those of their white counterparts throughout the year. As of December 2020, 9.1% of Latinas were unemployed, versus 5.7% of white women.
Declining unemployment figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in recent weeks have obscured a more complex picture of Latinas in the workforce. For example, the UCLA study found that Latinas dropped out of the workforce at a higher rate than any other demographic group. From March 2020 to March 2021, 2.7% of Latina workers dropped out of the labor market — almost double the 1.7% drop among white women workers during the same period. The study noted that Latinas’ unemployment rate has leveled off somewhat, in part because previously unemployed Latinas have dropped out of the labor force altogether.
“Over the course of this pandemic, we have seen women of color struggle much more than white men, often because of their overrepresentation in low-wage sectors and because of their roles as primary caregivers to their families,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, the initiative’s research director and a co-author of the report.
“As the country enters an economic recovery, we now have the opportunity to address the immediate needs of these women and to create a system that will address their needs in the long term. Providing better access to child care and skills training that provides opportunities for economic mobility would go a long way toward ensuring not only jobs but dignified work for women of color.”
In quantifying the loss in labor for Latinas relative to other groups, the UCLA report provides evidence that inequities that existed before COVID-19 remain. Returning to pre-pandemic conditions in the U.S. workforce will still leave millions of Latinas without access to true economic opportunity and social mobility, which ultimately would diminish the nation’s long-term competitiveness. Among the report’s recommendations to policymakers:
- Increase the minimum wage
- Strengthen the social safety net by increasing child care support, introducing mandatory paid family leave and expanding the child tax credit
- Strengthen skills training and education programs to create greater access to higher-wage careers in which workers are less susceptible to losing jobs due to automation
A Healthcare Innovation article on the use of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to inform public health efforts put a spotlight on the work of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin. The center created a tool that maps Los Angeles County neighborhoods to assess residents’ vulnerability to COVID-19 infection. The predictive model used four indicators: preexisting medical conditions, barriers to accessing health care, built-environment characteristics and socioeconomic challenges that create vulnerabilities. “The UCLA case study is emblematic of precisely the kinds of use cases that will be emerging in the coming years, as healthcare leaders start to plumb the vast potential of AI and other forms of predictive analytics to serve the purposes of public health here in the U.S.,” the article said.