For U.S. blacks, Latinos, no sign of a broadly rising tide

By Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have opened a broader discussion about racial inequality in the United States.

The U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s was a watershed when it came to formal de-segregation in housing, education, the workplace and public spaces. But more than a half century later, stark divisions remain in how the benefits of a $20 trillion economy are distributed among the largest racial and ethnic minorities and the country’s white majority.

An array of government programs has attempted to address the issue, including anti-poverty efforts, affirmative action to boost college enrollment, and preferences in contracting for minority-owned businesses.

But black and Latino families on average continue to earn less, have higher unemployment, and are harder hit when economic shocks like the coronavirus hit.

Graphic – Black vs white unemployment:

“The downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been the most affected,” Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said this week.

That gap is most apparent in family net worth estimates. Black and Hispanic families accumulate proportionately less in real estate, stocks, business assets and other forms of wealth than white families.

Graphic – After decades, wealth gap remains:

Over time, that creates lower inheritances for children and more constraints when it comes to funding education or training – a dynamic that can help perpetuate the problem.

Some Fed officials have pointed to deep-seated racism as drag on the U.S. economy.

“By limiting economic and educational opportunities for a large number of Americans, institutionalized racism constrains this country’s economic potential,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said on Friday, calling for an end to racism as both a moral and economic imperative.

“The economic contributions of these Americans, in the form of work product and innovation, will be less than they otherwise could have been. Systemic racism is a yoke that drags on the American economy.”

The lack of progress after so many decades has led some to argue that a massive generational transfer, sometimes referred to as reparations, is needed to undo a legacy that has roots in slavery, but continued to compound through the era of formal segregation and beyond.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Heather Timmons and Sam Holmes)

Coronavirus deadliest in New York City’s black and Latino neighborhoods, data shows

By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some New York City neighborhoods have seen death rates from the novel coronavirus nearly 15 times higher than others, according to data released by New York City’s health department on Monday, showing the disproportionate toll taken on poor communities.

The data shows for the first time a breakdown on the number of deaths in each of the city’s more than 60 ZIP codes. The highest death rate was seen on the edge of Brooklyn in a neighborhood dominated by a large subsidized-housing development called Starrett City.

Civic leaders had been pushing for the more granular data, which they said would show stark racial and economic disparities after New York City became the heart of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world in March and April.

In the wealthy, mostly white enclave of Gramercy Park in Manhattan, the rate is 31 deaths per 100,000 residents, the data shows. A long subway ride away in Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens, which is more than 40% black and 25% Latino or Hispanic, the death rate is nearly 15 times higher: 444 deaths per 100,000 residents.

“It’s really heartbreaking and it should tug at the moral conscience of the city,” Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council’s health committee, said in an interview. “We knew we had dramatic inequality. This, in graphic form, shows it’s even greater than maybe many of us feared.”

Poor black and Latino New Yorkers are much more likely to do low-paid, essential jobs that cannot be done remotely, putting them at higher risk of exposure, Levine said. They are also more likely than rich, white New Yorkers to live in smaller, more crowded apartments.

Due to inequalities in access to healthcare, they are also more likely to have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, Levine said.

The city had been releasing a daily update of cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, by ZIP code, but only gave a breakdown of deaths for each of the city’s five boroughs.

The coronavirus has killed at least 20,800 people in the city so far, according to health department data.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)