Watson Institute at Brown University
Stone Inequality Initiative

Building an Equitable Recovery: The Role of Race, Labor, Markets, and Education

The present economic downturn is unique among modern recessions. In response to the emergence of [Coronavirus Disease 2019] COVID-19, policymakers shut down large portions of the economy, leading to layoffs and cascading economic problems in order to save lives. Health concerns also led individuals to significant shifts in economic behavior. This report explains how this recession is different from past recessions - and how it is similar. In at least one respect, the current calamity falls well within the trends of American history: it is plagued by racial inequity. In most recessions, unemployment increases most among Black people, followed by Latinx people. In this recession, mortality and morbidity have increased in a similar fashion. Indeed, in most recessions, the primary risk facing workers is unemployment; in this crisis, workers may also face potential exposure to COVID-19. This report examines how Black and Latinx workers are unequally distributed in various job categories, compared to White workers, and shows that differences in educational attainment fail to explain the disparities.