California Workers with Less Education, People of Color, and Immigrants are Shouldering the Economic Burden of COVID-19

Federal and state policymakers must address the needs of workers and families most at financial risk and challenge the racial and economic disparities that hurt Californians before the crisis hit

SACRAMENTO – Millions of Californian workers are shouldering the burden of the COVID-19 economic slowdown, but workers with less education, people of color, and immigrants face the greatest financial risk, according to two new reports from the California Budget & Policy Center.

The loss of jobs – evidenced by the record number of Californians who have recently filed for unemployment insurance – and cuts to work hours hit some households especially hard, and struggling to pay for food and rent during the pandemic is exacerbated by the economic, educational, and racial inequities many California workers already faced.

The Budget Center’s two new reports – California Workers With Less Education, People of Color, and Immigrants are at Greatest Financial Risk Due to COVID-19 and California’s Undocumented Workers and Mixed Status Families Are Locked Out of Safety Net and Federal COVID-19 Support – look at the demographic makeup of workers and their families in industries that are directly and immediately affected by the business slowdown and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the key findings in the new reports:

  • Nearly a quarter of all California workers (23.8%) are employed in one of these highly affected industries.
  • More than 1 in 4 workers (26.2%) in California in these immediately affected industries are parents.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 California workers (5%) with less than a high school education work in an industry immediately affected by the COVID-19 business slowdown, while only 1 in 7 workers with a bachelor’s degree (14.3%) work in one of these highly affected industries.
  • Among workers at high risk of losing jobs or hours, nearly 2 in 3 (65.5%) are people of color, including more than 4 in 10 (43.8%) who are Latinx, more than 1 in 8 (13.2%) who are Asian, and about 1 in 20 (4.7%) who are Black.
  • Latinx children are especially likely to face economic harm from the COVID-19 slowdown, with more than 1 in 3 living in a household that includes a worker in a highly affected industry.
  • About 1 in 3 (34%) undocumented workers in California is employed in an industry that was immediately affected by the COVID-19 economic shutdown – such as food service, child care, building services (like janitorial services) or landscaping.
  • Of these undocumented workers in the most immediately affected industries, an estimated 40% are parents, and an estimated 90% of these parents live with children who are US citizens.

Also highlighted in the reports, California’s great paradox: while the state is home to an estimated 2 to 3 million individuals who are undocumented immigrants – 6% of the state population – they are locked out of most federal and state public supports, including unemployment insurance, available to help workers and their families to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

These findings come just as new unemployment insurance claim figures were released Thursday with 2.9 million Californians filing initial unemployment insurance claims since mid-March – three times the population of San Jose. The most recent weekly claim figures included 660,966 people for the week ending April 11, and 918,814 people for the week ending April 4.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest weekly claim figure on record in California was more than a decade ago – 115,462 people filed the week ending January 16, 2010.

While federal and state leaders have taken steps to help Californians hit by the health and economic crisis, more support is needed to help people in the months to come.

The additional support at the state level needed includes but is not limited to: emergency aid distributed either through local community based organizations or county social service agencies; providing a state tax credit, or rebate, through the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit for individuals who file taxes with Individual Tax Identification Numbers; a state-provided unemployment, or wage replacement to those who do not quality for unemployment insurance; comprehensive health coverage for all undocumented adults; and additional work-protected leave for individuals who are unable to work due to the closure of child care, adult care, and schools.

Learn more about the Budget Center’s findings and policy recommendations on economics, health, and COVID-19: https://calbudgetcenter.org/issues/economics-health-covid19/

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