The data on economic opportunity showcases that before COVID-19, communities of color were disproportionately suffering from structural barriers that impeded their ability to thrive. Black, Latinx, and AIAN (American Indian, Indigenous, American Native) Californians disproportionately had lower wages and lived in poverty. The findings in RACE COUNTS’ COVID-19 Vulnerability & Recovery Index report showcases the depth and breadth of these economic inequities.
Families of color are at a significant disadvantage compared to White families, who have accumulated wealth over generations due to racial discrimination in employment, housing discrimination, and government services. The pandemic exacerbated those economic inequities and brought the issue to the forefront of public attention as millions of low-income Californians of color have struggled to make ends meet, secure stable shelter, obtain quality food, and pay for technology to participate in distanced K-12 learning.
To significantly move towards racial equity and better economic performance, the state of California and counties must provide community members with a guaranteed basic income, universal broadband access, and quality jobs. It is also vital for youths of color to be connected to schools and, once old enough, employment opportunities. Localities that are rural or have smaller populations especially need these policy interventions. As we shift from pandemic response to recovery, we must direct resources to remedy the underlying inequities that created a foundation for COVID-19 to devastate the economic welfare of communities of color. Meaning, in addition to shoring up inequities in our system of public health, we must direct investments to the root causes of systemic oppression — such as access to affordable housing for low-income people, permanent supportive housing for those of us who are unhoused, quality food and schools, and guaranteed basic income. Another necessary solution is closing corporate property tax loopholes, which led to a deep divestment in education and public services.
Different industries have largely failed to meet the needs of diverse racial groups in spite of legal advancements to provide de jure equal opportunity for all workers.