5 Reasons Why U.S. Women and People of Color Are Especially Vulnerable to COVID-19 - CARE

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5 Reasons Why U.S. Women and People of Color Are Especially Vulnerable to COVID-19

Activists with Black Lives Matter DC, 1199SEIU and ShutDownDC hold up a sign as they participate in a protest to highlight the plight of vulnerable community members, including immigrant workers and people in jails, prisons and ICE detention centers exposed to Coronavirus on Monday, April 27, 2020

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

In a historic first, CARE brings its global expertise to the context of COVID-19 in the United States, revealing how systematic injustice and discrimination puts marginalized communities at a disadvantage during the pandemic.

Women and people of color, particularly black and indigenous women, are dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. as they attempt to survive in a system that ignores their basic needs.

This is just one of many truths uncovered in CARE’s first-ever domestic report, which reveals that structural realities and biases in the United States put Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, particularly women in those communities, at higher exposure to infection and greater vulnerability to the harmful health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

CARE’s Rapid Gender Analysis: COVID-19 in the United States shows that we must do more to amplify the voices of community-centered organizations fighting COVID-19 here at home, promote more gender-balanced and inclusive decision-making, and ensure any response to the pandemic supports a more equitable, healthy, resilient, and just U.S. for all.

Here’s 5 things we learned from CARE’s domestic Rapid Gender Analysis:

1. Poverty and historic under-investment of women and BIPOC communities intensify the impacts of COVID-19.

Poverty in marginalized communities in the U.S. – which reflects deep and longstanding injustice and discrimination – has amplified existing social, economic, political, and historical inequalities. Women are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men, and Native Americans account for 25 percent of poverty in the U.S. while making up less than 2 percent of the general population. As a result, BIPOC communities, especially women in those communities, are disproportionately denied food, housing, water and education.

of healthcare jobs are held by women, almost half of which are women of color

2. Limited access to sexual and reproductive healthcare at a time of increased need is failing women.

Sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) is losing ground as the pandemic drags on. Even under normal circumstances in the U.S., Black women are three times or more likely to die in childbirth than white women. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the designation of SRH health services as non-essential and many people are struggling to access appropriate healthcare when it’s needed most. This extends to services that support survivors of gender-based violence, which is on the rise as lockdowns and mobility restrictions are enforced worldwide.

3. Essential workers, who are disproportionately BIPOC women, hold more dangerous positions that threaten their economic security and health.

We depend on essential workers now more than ever – our nurses, grocery store employees, delivery workers, farmers, mail carriers, and much more. BIPOC represent 40 percent of essential workers while they comprise only about 23 percent of the national population. Further, women make up nearly 67 percent of the workforce in the 40 lowest paying jobs in the U.S. These people are being asked to take the greatest risks in COVID-19, despite low wages and few protections – like access to paid sick leave. Add to that, unlike previous economic crises in the U.S., women are losing jobs at much higher rates than men this time around.

of the workforce in the 40 lowest paying jobs in the U.S. are women

4. Unpaid caregiving is falling hardest on women – especially women of color.

In the U.S., women take on the greatest caregiving burdens in the best of times. With families spending more time at home during lockdown, and most children home from school, increased caregiving burdens are hitting women the hardest. For single parent families – 66 percent and 44 percent of which identify as Black and Latinx respectively – these additional impacts are further intensified.

5. Increased stress and anxiety due to the pandemic means higher rates of violence on women and BIPOC communities.

COVID-19 and related impacts, like loss of jobs and shelter-in-place restrictions, have increased stressors tied to increased domestic violence, societal violence, and law enforcement violence, reinforcing existing power dynamics. In the U.S., one in four women are estimated to experience violence from a partner, and, on some reservations, one in two Native American women report experiencing sexual violence. For communities marginalized due to immigration status, racial and gender-based discrimination, and criminalization, this combination of violence, increased risk of exposure to infection, and exclusion from healthcare access is a major concern.

CARE’s report confirms that while COVID-19 affects everyone, it is not equally so.

Without accounting for the differing experiences of BIPOC communities, an effective response will not be possible, and we risk perpetuating the systems of inequality while prolonging the global health crisis of COVID-19.

Read the full report here.