Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Essential Workers, Mental Health, and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jevay Grooms, Alberto Ortega, Joaquin A.A. Rubalcaba, Edward Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence is emerging of the pandemic disproportionately impacting communities of color. This study investigates mental health distress among essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic across race and ethnicity. We evaluate individual responses to the patient health questionnaire and general anxiety disorder questionnaire using a unique, nationally representative data set. Our findings suggest that essential healthcare workers reported the highest rates of mental health distress at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. However, when evaluated across race and ethnicity, we find that Black essential healthcare workers disproportionately report symptoms of anxiety; while, Hispanic essential healthcare workers disproportionately report symptoms of depression. Additionally, we find that being a Black or Hispanic essential nonhealthcare worker is associated with higher levels of distress related to anxiety and depression. These findings highlight the additional dimensions to which Black and Hispanic Americans may be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, it calls into question how the essential worker classification, compounded by US unemployment policies, is potentially amplifying the mental health distress experienced by workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalReview of Black Political Economy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • coronavirus pandemic
  • essential workers
  • mental health
  • Social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Economics and Econometrics

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