Health

Black and Hispanic workers less able to work from home

The governors of California, Illinois and New York last week issued lockdowns on their states requiring that non-essential workers stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Those restrictions hit certain minority groups especially hard, research suggest. 

A disproportionately high share of black and Hispanic workers cannot telecommute, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute based on federal labor data. Asian workers, followed by white workers, were most likely to be able to do their jobs remotely.

From 2017 to 2018, 29.9% of white workers surveyed said they could work from home, compared to 19.7% of black of African American workers and 16.2% of Latino workers. Thirty-seven percent of Asian workers said they could do their jobs remotely, according to the report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to work in lower-paid, consumer-facing service jobs that limit their ability to work remotely, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the non-profit Economic Policy Institute and the former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor.

“The vast majority of the workforce can’t work right now, and if I didn’t look at this data I might get a skewed idea of what share of people can actually work at home,” Shierholz said. “To think that everyone is at home doing their work and keeping their jobs is the wrong idea.”

Americans told to stay home during coronavirus fight

According to Shierholz, only 6% of service-sector workers said they could work from home, according to government labor data. Transportation and material-moving workers were least likely to be able to work from home, followed by Americans in production roles; services jobs; construction and extraction; and installation, maintenance and repair jobs. 

At the other end of the spectrum, more than 24% of office and administrative support workers said they could work from home, in addition to 28% of people in sales roles. More than 60% of managers, business and financial operations workers said they can work from home. 


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