Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos in California were relatively unlikely to use emergency medical services. But during the pandemic, across much of the state, Latinos’ use of such services — specifically seeking treatment for respiratory ailments — increased more than it did for non-Latino whites, according to a new report by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. The report’s authors compared figures for the first six months of 2020 to statistics for the same period in 2019. They analyzed data from the California Emergency Medical Services Information System, which includes information from all of the state’s 33 local emergency medical service agencies with the exception of Los Angeles County. “Although the study doesn’t directly account for about 30% of California’s Latinos who live in Los Angeles, other studies on the impact of COVID-19 on Latinos in L.A. would suggest that the same phenomenon would hold true in Los Angeles,” said Esmeralda Melgoza, a doctoral student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and a co-author of the report. The study’s findings suggest that emergency medical services statewide have an opportunity to improve their language and cultural literacy to better serve the needs of their Latino patients. The study identified factors that kept Latinos from using emergency services prior to the pandemic, including concerns about the costs of emergency care and fears that interaction with public safety officials could endanger their immigration status. After the pandemic began, their use of emergency services for urgent respiratory illness pointed to the toll COVID-19 took on Latino essential workers and families. — Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $750,000 from The James Irvine Foundation to support data collection and research on the impacts of COVID-19 on Latino workers in California. The grant will also support the development of a policy toolkit to improve the capacity of California lawmakers, business leaders and advocates to champion recovery efforts that strengthen the state’s core workforce. “Latinos are the current and future workforce of California and the road to prosperity runs through them. Yet we often lack the data necessary to make the best policy decisions and targeted investments to uplift Latinos,” LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz said. “Opportunity and economic mobility for California’s Latinos is necessary for us all to thrive now and far into the future.” Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial group in the country, and a plurality in California, so understanding their contributions to the nation’s social and economic fabric is imperative, Diaz said. She added that providing opportunities to make a living wage and build new skills in a changing economy is critical to a strong recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irvine Foundation grant will support data collection focusing on eight areas: demography and population change; climate change and the environment; economic opportunity and social mobility; education; health; housing; child welfare; and voting rights and political representation. “We know that Latinos are essential to California’s future,” said Virginia Mosqueda, senior program officer at the Irvine Foundation. “Supporting UCLA LPPI helps ensure our state leads the nation in offering Latino workers access to economic opportunity.”
NPR’s All Things Considered spoke with Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, about California’s Latino electorate. The state’s Latinos skew younger and more Democratic than Latinos in many other regions, Diaz said, but “by and large, Latino voters care about the same things in California that they do in Texas — good jobs and good health care.” Civil society organizations, rather than the Democratic Party, did the bulk of the work to get out the vote to block the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, she said. “The fact that these voters came out, it was because of these community-based organizers that really put a message that was distinct from either party,” a message that focused on values steeped in data science and strong policy rather than xenophobia, Diaz said. “That was very persuasive to these voters. And by and large, now they’re likely voters going into the 2022 midterm elections.”
Sonja Diaz, executive director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, spoke to CBS News about the importance of engaging Latino voters, who make up nearly 28% of the California electorate. Latinos’ priorities are largely dependent on where they live, Diaz said. “Los Angeles County was the epicenter of COVID 19. … In places like the Central Valley, you could see the closure of small businesses. In other places throughout the state, it’s issues of housing insecurity,” she said, advising campaigns and political parties to “meet Latino voters where they are and actually have the nuanced messaging that is geographical tailored.” In many diverse communities, trusted messengers such as medical professionals at local clinics are key in communicating that protecting one’s health and casting a ballot are important acts of civic engagement. “You need to identify the people that diverse households are going to respond to, especially since there is this plethora of misinformation and disinformation that target these households,” Diaz said.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KPBS about changes to California’s policies to combat COVID-19 if Gov. Gavin Newsom is removed from office — including potential cuts in funding to deal with the pandemic. “We know who suffers when bad policy exists … and that’s Black and brown communities who have borne the brunt of the health and wealth impacts of this pandemic,” she said. “One need only look at states like Arizona, Georgia and Florida for the role of a governor who’s anti-science in dealing with the pandemic.” Diaz also spoke to the Associated Press about the electoral power of Latinos, who now make up 40% of California’s population but are less likely to vote than other groups. And she spoke with Spectrum News about the importance of investing in turnout to motivate people of color to vote.
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.
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has received an 18-month, $2.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The funding will support two new research databases that will help identify and analyze the unique public policy issues surrounding Latinos.
Ultimately, research based on the information in the databases should help decision-makers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors understand how policies that improve the lives of Latinos will benefit the entire nation.
“As the largest non-white minority group in the United States, Latinos are integral to building a prosperous future for all Americans,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “Yet Latinos face significant barriers to economic opportunity, political representation and social mobility. This funding will enable us to reliably collect data that brings Latinos and the issues that impact them out of the shadows and to create real policy solutions that build a truly inclusive economy and democracy.”
Both databases will be freely available to policymakers, advocates, scholars and the public as a comprehensive resource to broaden understanding of issues affecting the Latino community.
The first database, the Latino Data Hub, will contain data from verified sources on demographics, socioeconomics and civic participation that will help policymakers, community organizations, philanthropists and businesses design and promote policies that benefit Latino communities.
Drawing on UCLA’s unparalleled depth of expertise on issues that impact the Latino community, the database is intended to become a go-to resource for national, state and local data. It also will include statistics and information on climate change and the environment, economic opportunity and social mobility, education, health and housing, all of which contribute to Latino well-being.
As it evolves, the hub will enable users to track progress and setbacks in efforts to ensure a more equitable nation for Latinos.
The importance of clear, reliable and actionable data on Latino communities has been demonstrated repeatedly by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past 18 months, the group has produced research reports focusing on safe access to voting, the costs of excluding undocumented workers from socioeconomic relief programs, and other critical issues.
“The global pandemic has laid bare long-standing inequities that permeate virtually all our systems and institutions,” said Ciciley Moore, program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “It also opened a door of opportunity to correct this legacy of inequity, and now is the time to be proactive in building the future we want. Investing in the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative to provide cutting-edge data and research resources means investing in the future where equity is realized.”
The second database, the Latino Research Redistricting Hub, will include statistical, geographic and historical data and analyses to help illuminate how the drawing of state and federal electoral maps affects Latino communities. Redistricting impacts a wide range of issues, from the number of parks in a neighborhood to congressional representation, and the hub will be a resource for officials engaged in redistricting decisions. Its goal is to ensure fair representation in politics and government for the nation’s diverse Latino communities.
“Before we can address inequity, we must tell the truth about our conditions, and that is what data does,” Moore said. “We are proud to invest in creating tools that help us see our biggest challenges clearly and identify equitable solutions that enable us all to thrive.”
Other recent research by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative has highlighted the growing political power of the Latino electorate and paths to creating long-term engagement among Latino voters. The initiative also helped secure court victories around voting rights in Texas and Pennsylvania and pushed for the creation of a Latino-focused Smithsonian museum.
By Nick Gonzalez
Latinas make less than their male and female counterparts, have never served in a statewide elected position in California and remain underrepresented in corporate leadership positions. A new two-year effort launched by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and the California Latino Caucus seeks to tackle the inequities that the state’s Latinas face.
UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) faculty and staff have been at the forefront of the Unseen Latinas Initiative by providing expert testimony in its first year of public hearings to identify problems and solutions. Through cross-sector research, a team of LPPI female experts have been putting a data-driven lens on the educational, economic and career barriers that Latinas must overcome.
“By launching the Unseen Latinas Initiative, California’s leaders are making it clear that they understand that the state’s continued economic prowess requires that Latinas have a fair chance to succeed and thrive,” said Sonja Diaz, LPPI founding director. “Especially as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to make sure that no one gets left behind in the recovery and bright future that lies ahead.”
Latinas make up nearly 20% of Californians, and Latina participation in the U.S. workforce is expected to grow by 26% in the next 10 years. Yet new research from LPPI shows that Latinas exited the workforce amid the pandemic at higher rates than any other demographic amid the pandemic, making it clear that recovery efforts should provide specific assistance to help them recover financially and get back on their feet.
“California has an opportunity and responsibility to lead what it means to have a just and equal economy,” said Gonzalez, who earned a law degree at UCLA in 1999. “UCLA LPPI has been a valuable partner on the Unseen Latinas Initiative. LPPI experts have shared key testimony by shining a light on the inequalities Latinas continue to face, as well as the opportunities that exist to make sure Latinas are no longer unseen and can participate in the state’s prosperous future.”
In an October conversation about the Latina wage gap, Diaz urged action to address the child-care and family obligations that pushed Latinas out of the workforce during the pandemic. Without a clear plan to bring them back into the labor market, the repercussions could be devastating for Latino families and for the state’s economy, she said.
LPPI expert Mary Lopez, an economics professor at Occidental College, continued the conversation in a January hearing on the labor market, testifying that policy solutions such as affordable child care and job training are essential in reducing workforce inequities for Latinas.
Part of the invisibility of the needs and strengths of the state’s Latinas comes from the lack of representation in media and popular culture. At an April hearing, LPPI expert Ana-Christina Ramón provided testimony about the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, which she co-founded and co-authors. Latinos and women are among the groups that remain underrepresented in film relative to their population size.
“We know that Hollywood plays a meaningful role in shaping how people perceive others around them,” said Ramón, who is also the director of research and civic engagement at the UCLA Division of Social Sciences. “When Latinas do not have starring roles or they are not seen as doctors, lawyers or CEOs, that perpetuates the barriers that they face in achieving their full potential.”
For information about the legislators leading Unseen Latinas and for details on upcoming hearings, please visit the Assembly website for the state’s Select Committee on Latina Inequities.
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) has received $3 million in ongoing annual state funding to conduct research and develop policy solutions to address inequities that disproportionately impact Latinos and other communities of color.
The state budget signed July 12 included funding for LPPI. The resources will be used to continue the organization’s applied research to help inform future policy efforts and to measure how government actions influence the economic, educational, health and quality-of-life outcomes for the state’s workforce.
“It is clear that California’s story — its future, its economic potential, its role as a national leader — is intertwined with the story of the Latino community,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of LPPI. “We are honored that California has recognized the importance of investing in putting a data-driven lens to shape and implement a 21st century agenda, and we are ready to make sure that research and facts pave a path toward a more just and prosperous future for all Californians.”
The funding was championed by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, with leadership from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and Assembly members Robert Rivas and Lorena Gonzalez, the chair, vice chair and former chair of the caucus.
“California is the world’s fifth-largest economy, and our innovation and prowess are made possible by the diverse and vibrant communities that demonstrated how essential they are during the pandemic,” Durazo said. “We need to understand how to better include and empower communities who represent California’s future, and there is no better partner to help us understand how to lead with justice and equity than UCLA LPPI.”
The support for LPPI comes as California prepares for economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, which had disproportionate and devastating public health and economic impacts on the state’s diverse Latino communities.
“Data tell important stories about what’s working, who is getting left behind, and how our taxpayer investments can be efficient and equitable,” Gonzalez said. “We are proud to partner with UCLA LPPI to make sure we have a data-driven Latino lens on the vision of a vibrant California.”
LPPI has been on the front lines of driving important policy conversations, particularly as it became clear that the COVID-19 crisis was particularly impacting underserved communities of color. Throughout the pandemic, LPPI research that drove policy outcomes included a report that looked at the racial disparities in what communities were receiving federal aid and on the impacts of the Latino physician shortage amid a public health pandemic. As the vaccination process got underway, LPPI convened more than 70 Latino leaders across the state to urge for better data and equity-driven implementation, which were implemented by the state.
The organization’s research is also focused on highlighting the importance of representation in democratic and civic institutions and processes, and what it means when Californians’ leadership does not represent the totality of communities it serves. For example, a research report highlighted the lack of Latino representation in the California Redistricting Commission, which helped generate action and attention on the selection process. At a national level, research included a report that advocated for the creation of a Latino-focused Smithsonian museum.
By Zoe Day
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinas went from being one of the fastest-growing groups in the labor force to one that was hit hardest by unemployment, with 2.4 million Latinas out of work in April 2020.
This finding from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) at UCLA Luskin is part of a broad body of research on the pandemic’s impact on Latino populations — research that is now being shared with a wider audience through a partnership with Spanish-language news station Telemundo 52.
LPPI research analyst Kassandra Hernández BA ’17, MPP ’20 sees the collaboration as an opportunity to uplift Latina voices and make relevant research more accessible to Latino populations.
“The reports we produce are nothing if no one reads them,” she explained. “We’re studying the impact [of the pandemic] on Latinas, and we would like to reach the people who are being impacted.”
A Telemundo newscast featuring Hernández focused on Latina participation in the labor market, which had been projected to experience substantial growth until the pandemic forced many Latinas to choose child-care duties over paid work. LPPI Director of Research Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas also appeared in the segment, underscoring that “Latinas are overrepresented in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.”
As a native Spanish speaker, Hernández welcomed the chance to connect with the populations that her research focuses on, in their own language.
“Different media outlets are accessible in different languages, but English doesn’t reach Latinas in the same way,” she said.
Two other Telemundo reports featured LPPI-affiliated scholars who shared their expertise on COVID-19’s impact on Latino populations. In one segment, Melissa Chinchilla, a research scientist who studies the intersection of housing, health and community development, explained how unemployment caused by the pandemic led many to move in with friends and family, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission within households.
“Affordable housing and the capacity to accommodate multigenerational families are issues that will require long-term investment,” Chinchilla said.
In another report, Yohualli Balderas-Medina Anaya, a medical doctor on the faculty of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, discussed the long-term symptoms experienced by some COVID-19 patients even after the infection has passed. Anaya expressed concern that some side effects will continue to affect patients for years.
Telemundo reporter Enrique Chiabra, a UCLA alumnus, presented the three-part series aimed at making information about the COVID-19 pandemic accessible for Spanish-speaking populations. That is a key priority for Hernández, who has worked with LPPI faculty experts including Executive Director Sonja Diaz to interpret research and push it into the public sphere.
“Academic research is often not as accessible to the communities it focuses on,” she said. “I want to analyze inequities and share knowledge; I don’t want to stay in the ivory tower.”
Hernández is a double Bruin who earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy and labor and workplace studies. After graduation, she worked with AmeriCorps on food insecurity before going back to school to develop her skills in quantitative analysis.
“As a Latina, I have lived what I find in numbers,” said Hernández, a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She spoke about her own mother’s challenges balancing responsibilities as a domestic worker and the demands of being a parent and caretaker.
“I realized not everyone has those same experiences, but I can use numbers as evidence to validate my own story.”
Hernández said she chose the master of public policy program at UCLA Luskin because of the supportive faculty and the opportunity to engage with real-world issues. The experience “opened up my eyes to what I could do and how to analyze policy,” she said.
Hernández’s research with LPPI has helped shed light on the gender norms and expectations that often push Latina women aside or confine them to the household. The partnership between LPPI and Telemundo, she said, helped break down stereotypes and recognize that Latinas should not be grouped together as a monolith.
As Hernández’s time with LPPI draws to a close, she is excited to meet the next cohort of fellows to continue advancing research and policy work to support Latinas. In the fall, she will pursue her Ph.D. in economics at UC Berkeley, building on her skills from UCLA Luskin to address inequality through policy research focusing on labor, income inequality, immigration, education, food access and environmental economics.
“Everything is connected,” Hernández said. “Inequality dictates access and quality of life.”