Associate Professor of Urban Planning Veronica Terriquez co-authored an article in the Conversation explaining what white privilege is and why understanding the concept is important. White privilege is both the obvious and hidden advantages afforded to white people by systemic forms of racial injustice, the authors wrote. The police killing of George Floyd in 2021 ignited a wave of protests across the globe and intense discussions of anti-Black racism, including the concept of white privilege. The authors noted that “unpacking how whiteness operates to bestow privilege may allow us to understand how ‘others’ are systematically denied those same rights.” Critics have argued that “white privilege” is a term that “reinforces stereotypes, reifies conceptualisations of race, antagonises potential allies and creates even greater resistance to change.” However, Terriquez and her co-authors described the term as an important tool for advocacy to critique systemic racism and global anti-Blackness.
Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Executive Director Sonja Diaz authored an opinion piece in the California Health Report about disparities in the American health care system. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed immense inequities across our health care systems, from coverage gaps to preexisting health conditions,” Diaz wrote. These inequities are felt most acutely by communities of color, she said, calling for urgent action to address the physician shortage and “diversify the field to include more doctors who share language, ethnicity and cultural norms with their patients.” Despite the diversity of the American population, communities of color remain underrepresented in health and medical occupations, which hinders physicians’ abilities to build trust with patients. “Expanding and diversifying our physician pool is a necessary infrastructure investment,” Diaz wrote. She suggested increasing opportunities for Americans to enter health professions by expanding federal scholarships and prioritizing students committed to serving in medically underserved areas for grant funding.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jasmine Hill was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about support for the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom among people of color who believe that hard work and self-discipline are all it takes to win in this society. Latinos in particular are “more likely than the general U.S. public to believe in core parts of the American dream — that hard work will pay off and that each successive generation is better off than the one before it,” according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Hill called this “a very alluring narrative, because it says that if I just keep working hard, this will work out for me.” But the assumption that poverty and deprivation are personal choices can aggravate social problems and reinforce racial stereotypes, she said. “It’s extremely bad for the social fabric, particularly our relationship to people of color,” Hill said.
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.
Prior to the 2020 U.S. census, many observers feared that large segments of the population would be undercounted. Those fears appear to have been realized, according to a UCLA analysis of the census data.
The study, conducted by the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, found that in Los Angeles County, residents in some neighborhoods were much more likely than others to be excluded from the 2020 census. Specifically, the research (PDF) concluded that — at the census-tract level — undercounts were most likely in areas where the majority of residents are Hispanic or Asian, have lower incomes, rent their homes or were born outside of the U.S.
Paul Ong, a research professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and Jonathan Ong of Ong and Associates, a public-interest consulting firm, combed through data published Aug. 12 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The results are, unfortunately, consistent with our worst fear that the 2020 enumeration faced numerous potentially insurmountable barriers to a complete and accurate count,” Paul Ong said.
The research team compared the information to earlier population estimates drawn from the census bureau’s American Community Survey to determine whether and where the 2020 enumeration appeared to undercount or overcount the population within each neighborhood in Los Angeles County.
A key difference between the American Community Survey and the 2020 census, Paul Ong said, is that the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected data collection for the census. Previous research showed that disruption was particularly pronounced in disadvantaged neighborhoods. That appears to have created a “differential undercount,” meaning that some populations were more likely than other groups not to be counted. That, in turn, means that the scope of ethnic diversity and demographic change in cities like Los Angeles could be significantly underestimated, he said.
Graphic courtesy of UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge
Based on comparisons between the latest census data and the most recent American Community Survey estimates, the UCLA study found that in Los Angeles County:
- Predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are most likely to have the largest undercounts in the census.
- Neighborhoods with the greatest percentage of people living below the poverty line were most likely to have undercounts.
- Neighborhoods with larger percentages of renters, as opposed to homeowners, were more likely to have undercounts.
- Census tracts in which most people are U.S.-born were more likely to be accurately counted than predominantly immigrant neighborhoods.
The pandemic wasn’t the only factor that hampered data collection for the 2020 census. The effort was also adversely affected by the Trump administration’s highly publicized push to include a citizenship question on the questionnaire. Although that effort was ultimately unsuccessful, Paul Ong said the controversy may have depressed participation among immigrants, whether they were undocumented or not.
“The findings indicate that the needless politicization of the 2020 enumeration seriously dampened participation by those targeted by the Trump administration,” he said.
Problems with the self-reporting aspect of the census placed greater pressure on the subsequent on-the-ground outreach in which census-takers canvassed nonresponding households. The success of that follow-up drive will not be known until a post-census analysis is conducted, which is scheduled for 2022.
The UCLA analysis is consistent with results from previous studies that have shown undercounts likelier to occur in disadvantaged communities. How residents are counted is important because census results influence legislative redistricting and government spending, which means the results can have serious political and economic implications.
“Given the analysis, it is imperative that we address the inequality in the census to ensure fair political representation in redistricting,” Paul Ong said.
Unlike previous corrective efforts, which address census undercounts based on national statistics and results from a comparatively small number of districts, the UCLA research relied on data specific to each neighborhood. As a result, Paul Ong said, the new approach should be more accurate and precise, and it could ultimately help officials understand how to adjust population statistics to account for the differential bias in completing the 2020 census and future counts.
Graphic courtesy of UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge
Undercounts are of most concern, but the technique could also help identify overcounts, which are rarer but can occur. Military redeployments may lead to overcounts, for example; other situations include some students who get counted twice while splitting time between home and college, and miscounts of people with second homes or people who experience a stay in a nursing home while also holding a permanent residence.
Ong & Associates, of which Paul Ong is the founder, provided services pro bono for the study.
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jasmine Hill spoke to Dot LA about the findings of PledgeLA’s survey of Los Angeles technology companies and venture firms. While the tech industry in Los Angeles has made efforts to increase the diversity of its workforce, the survey highlighted the disparities that still exist in pay and representation. “Tech oftentimes likes to think of itself as a very equal, egalitarian space,” said Hill, who helped analyze the data for PledgeLA. “But the data shows something different.” The report found that Black and Latino workers make less money than their peers, and women earned an average of $20,000 less than men regardless of role or experience. PledgeLA was able to break down earnings data by race as a result of an increased participation rate from PledgeLA companies in the survey, but Hill noted that the report is not representative of the entire L.A. tech scene because it only includes data from the participating PledgeLA companies.
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.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner was featured in a National Geographic article about the importance of shade in cities like Los Angeles that are growing hotter due to climate change. Urban design in Los Angeles has prioritized access to the sun, with many city codes determining how much shadow buildings can cast. However, climate change has increased the frequency and severity of heat waves, increasing the risk of heat-related death and illness. Furthermore, predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods have fewer parks and trees and less access to shade than white neighborhoods. While asphalt and concrete absorb and release captured heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, planting trees and creating shade can keep buildings cooler, lowering the risk of heat-related illness. “The really simple thing, if you care about making people more comfortable, is just to offer more opportunities for shade,” Turner said.
Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy Paavo Monkkonen spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the persistence of racial segregation in Los Angeles and other major U.S. cities. New research has found that many regions of the U.S. were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990. Reversing the legacy of segregation is a slow process, said Monkkonen, director of the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. “It’s a self-perpetuating process, where people are relegated to less attractive parts of the city, and then they’re associated with those parts of the city,” he said. There are also stark disparities in income, home values and life expectancy between residents in segregated communities and those in more integrated areas. Monkkonen said that, while some communities are working to develop proactive policies around fair housing and development, many researchers aren’t convinced that 2020’s reckoning with race will significantly move the needle when it comes to segregation.