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Four priorities for supporting black Americans during and after COVID-19

COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on black Americans has underscored persistent structural and systemic issues. Solutions during the recovery should target four areas.

The pandemic has affected all US residents, but its burden has fallen more heavily on black Americans and amplified existing, long-standing inequality in access and opportunities. Consider that black Americas are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, in part because they are overrepresented on the front lines, comprising 20 percent of workers in low-wage, high-contact, essential jobs in sectors such as healthcare, retail, and government services. In addition, black Americans may be less likely to have access to testing: 65 percent live in states with below-median testing rates. They also experience higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension—comorbidities that can exacerbate the effects of COVID-19.

In this webinar, a team of McKinsey partners and experts walks through solutions that have the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of black Americans. These initiatives address the four primary causes of the racial wage gap:

  • Community context. Black communities are more likely to rely on public services that are increasingly difficult to access during the pandemic. Targeted investments can help black households benefit from government programs while closing the digital divide.
  • Family wealth. In a McKinsey survey of American workers, more than 50 percent of black respondents said they believe that the coronavirus outbreak represents a major threat to their personal financial situation. Initiatives that can safeguard a household’s actual assets can cushion the blow from the downturn.
  • Family income. Wages are often correlated with educational background, training, and human-capital development. Human-capital programs can enable black Americans to take advantage of new and emerging employment and career opportunities.
  • Family savings. Black Americans often lack access to adequate financial resources and systems. Programs such as cash assistance and in-kind liquidity can ensure their ability to tap critical capital, especially in the near term, to withstand economic disruption.

Public-private partnerships will be critical to improve data availability, promote equitable decision making and governance, and make investments in and expand healthcare access in black communities.

For more on building equitable systems that increase the resilience of black Americans, please read “COVID-19: Investing in black lives and livelihoods.”

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