The systemic racism of lockdowns

The impact of COVID-19 on black people has been particularly disheartening. According to one study of the early pandemic (April 2020), the overall death rate in the United States from all causes increased by perhaps a third — a staggering fact in and of itself. But blacks were much worse hit than other racial or ethnic groups and were hit several times worse than whites.

As my CEI colleague Dr. Joel Zinberg relates, several reasons have been posited for this racial disparity. Blacks are only two-thirds as likely to be able to work from home and were therefore exposed to the pandemic in the workplace at higher rates (even if the data on the impact of lockdowns remains the subject of debate). Second, they are disproportionately concentrated in urban centers where the virus has been more prevalent. And third, they have higher levels of comorbidities such as obesity and hypertension.

Some have argued that other factors, such as systemic racism in our health-care system, have also contributed to racially disparate health impacts. Maybe so. But there is no doubt that the lockdown measures have contributed to racially disparate economic impacts.

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