Latinx Population Hit Hard in the COVID-19 Recession: Mounting Hardships and One Big Idea for an Inclusive Recovery

Digital Feature by Trevor Mattos, Bansari Kamdar, Phillip Granberry, Fabian Torres-Ardila
May 2021

Boston Indicators   (Boston)

Back before the COVID-19 crisis hit and the economy was relatively strong in the aggregate, Massachusetts’ Latinx population—a diverse and growing community that makes valuable economic and cultural contributions—had the lowest incomes and lowest homeownership rate among racial/ethnic groups in Massachusetts. Latinx working-age adults tended to have lower levels of educational attainment and were more likely to have limited English language proficiency. These, in part, contributed to higher levels of unemployment and food insecurity before the pandemic.  Then the COVID crisis hit in March of 2020, serving to compound many of these pre-existing challenges, as Latinx workers were more likely to work in restaurant and hospitality jobs that faced severe layoffs and greater exposure to the virus. To make matters worse, cities with large Latinx populations also experienced higher rates of COVID-19 transmission.

While both state and federal lawmakers took wide-ranging action to aid struggling families early in the pandemic, policy interventions did not offer a panacea. Latinx families with undocumented workers, for example, were most likely to be ineligible for government supports. In what follows, we explore the disproportionate social and economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Latinx population and model one specific policy approach to help foster a more equitable economic recovery—a guaranteed income for Massachusetts. As many struggle to buy groceries, pay rent, or afford other necessities, there is no perfect policy solution. But one promising strategy to bolster economic security in tough times is to give families direct cash assistance. This approach is well suited to the COVID crisis, where other social supports haven’t been enough, and to meeting the needs of the Latinx population, which has been hit especially hard. Cash assistance also treats recipients with dignity and offers flexibility by empowering them to choose for themselves how to allocate their resources.

The report details the many ways in which the current economic crisis has been especially hard for Latinx residents, and it concludes with a detailed discussion of how guaranteed income policies can help mitigate suffering like this in the future.