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women in charge

Internships in Congress overwhelmingly go to white students

James R. Jones, professor at Rutgers University – Newark , examines data surrounding the racial disparities in paid congressional internships. The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

When it comes to paid congressional internships, white students get more than their fair share, but Black and Latino students don’t get enough.

That is the key finding of a new report I co-authored with Tiffany Win and Carlos Mark Vera for Pay Our Interns, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is pushing to increase the number of paid internships in various sectors.

These racial disparities come despite 2018 legislation that provides House and Senate offices with allowances exclusively for paid internships. I investigated whom congressional offices hired with these allowances during the first year that this funding was available in 2019.

I found that while white students make up only 56% of undergraduate college students nationwide, they accounted for 76% of paid interns in Congress. In contrast, Black and Latino students make up 14% and 19% of all undergraduates, respectively, but accounted for only 6.7% and 7.9% of paid congressional interns, respectively.

Why it matters

Racial representation among paid congressional internships is important because internships often lead to paid staff positions. In a 2020 study of congressional staff, over 50% indicated that they started their careers on Capitol Hill as interns. Accordingly, if people of color are underrepresented among paid congressional interns, they will similarly be underrepresented among legislative staff.

That matters because congressional staff are important behind-the-scenes actors in making American law. They provide critical advice, guidance and analysis to lawmakers. Congressional staffers are also involved in nearly all dimensions of legislative work, from coming up with ideas to providing services for constituents to the oversight of the federal government and day-to-day operations of the legislature.

internships,

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

If the only staffers in the room advising members of Congress on policymaking decisions are white, then the policies this nation makes may not be as richly informed as they would otherwise be.

In addition, congressional employment provides a stepping stone to elected office. Today, the highest-ranking women in government, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both began their political careers as congressional interns.

When people get firsthand experience with how American democracy works, it better enables them to see themselves as leaders and public servants.

What still isn’t known

While our report examines the racial makeup of paid congressional interns, Congress does not collect or publish data on unpaid interns. To this end, it’s not known how many unpaid interns there are or the racial makeup of this group. Some congressional offices may pay their interns with funding beyond the allowances they get for interns, but we don’t believe many do.

What’s next

There are still a lot of unknowns about who works in Congress. My future research will continue to examine racial representation among congressional staff and the mechanisms that lead to racial inequities on Capitol Hill. I also plan to continue to urge Congress to adopt more transparent hiring practices so that this problem can be better understood.

You might be interested: So-called ‘good’ suburban schools often require trade-offs for Latino students

How we do our work

We analyzed congressional payroll data, which provides the names of every paid intern. From the list of people who interned in Congress between April and September 2019, Pay Our Interns researchers conducted an online search for photographs, social backgrounds and past employment data of all interns. We obtained data from a variety of sources, including Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. We collected racial demographic data for 96% of Senate interns and 95% of House interns.The Conversation

James R. Jones, Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University – Newark

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID-19 vaccine

NYC data reports racial and ethnic disparities in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 has revealed many of the racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare faced by people of color and ethnic groups. From suffering from higher disproportionate rates of infection and death, to disproportionately being more likely to end up in the hospital, communities of color and ethnic minority groups have been hit harder by the virus than white populations. Now we are seeing further disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. 

COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccine is here. But which groups are being prioritized? (Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Racial and ethnic disparities in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

As the vaccine begins to roll out across various states, new data shows that there are already disparities among recipients. In New York, data revealed that while 24% of the city’s residents are Black, only 11% of Black residents received the COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, White residents have received a disproportionate share of vaccines. 

The city’s demographic data is still incomplete, with many vaccine recipients not reporting their race or ethnicity. Currently, the race of about 263,000 people who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is not known. 

However, of nearly 300,000 city residents who received one dose and whose race was recorded, about 48 percent were white, 15% were Latino, 15 percent were Asian and 11% were Black. Latino and Black residents were underrepresented: The city’s population is roughly 29% Latino and 24% Black.

The disparities were even more striking among city residents aged 65 and up: Only 9% of the roughly 125,000 older New Yorkers who received the COVID-19 vaccine were Black.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was frustrated that New Yorkers in communities of color were not getting vaccinated. 

“Clearly we do see a profound disparity that needs to be addressed aggressively and creatively,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

racial and ethnic disparities

Only 11% of NYC’s nearly 300,000 vaccine recipients were Black, data reveals. (Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

One key factor is the racial and ethnic disparities is the complex scheduling system which many in underserved communities struggle to navigate. Residents have complained about the complicated process for scheduling appointments, long wait times on phones, and sudden appointment cancellations. Younger people have been helping their older relatives navigate the system, but the issue still needs to be addressed from the top especially since data reveals that white New Yorkers are navigating the vaccination system more easily than other populations. This signals that there is an accessibility issue, preventing certain communities from navigating the system. 

Mr. de Blasio has since pledged to address the problem by improving the appointment scheduling system and increasing outreach in more languages to make the system accessible to diverse communities. 

Still many elected officials have come out to criticize and blame the Mayor for failing to reach the city’s Black and Latino residents. 

Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, deemed the city’s response to the virus as having “turned into our Katrina” — a reference to the 2005 hurricane that hit New Orleans and overwhelmingly devastated Black residents.

“We know who is most at risk and who is suffering the most — and they are mostly Black and brown,” he said. “They have been abandoned and they are dying because of it. That must end today.”

Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, said the racial and ethnic disparities shown in the data was “a scathing indictment of how broken the system is.”

NYC vaccination sites prioritizing out-of-city residents over local communities

In addition to the accessibility and outreach issues, many of the city’s vaccinations have been going to people who live outside of the city. 

It’s been reported that at least 94,000 people who live outside the city have received the COVID-19 vaccine in New York. The mayor has defended this saying that many of those vaccinated work in the city. However, the racial divide among out-of-city vaccine recipients is even greater: 59% of recipients were white while only 7% were Black. 

racial and ethnic disparities

Racial disparities among out-of-city vaccine recipients is even greater: 59% of recipients were white while only 7% were Black. (Photo by CDC on Unsplash)

One vaccination site was recently called out in a report by The City for prioritizing outsiders over the community’s local population where over 70% of residents are Latino. The Armory Vaccination Center in Washington Heights has since agreed to prioritize residents from the local community and give new vaccines to New Yorkers only. 

Commenting on this inequity, Mayor Blasio said, “If a site is in a community, particularly a community hard hit by COVID, it should be all about reaching out to that community and bringing people in.”

Mark Levine, a city councilman who chairs the Council’s health committee, has called for several measures to close what he called the “vaccine equity gap,” including giving residents of local ZIP codes scheduling priority in communities of color.

“We need to take action now to fix yet another egregious case of inequity in this pandemic,” Mr. Levine said.

The city’s public advocate, Jumaane Williams, and comptroller Scott Stringer, have also called for critical changes to be made, calling the vaccine roll-out “almost criminal” and a “national embarrassment.” 

They are calling for Mayor Blasio to stop vaccinating people who live outside the city, to fix the confusing scheduling system, and provide paid time off for essential workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

You might be interested: Recent survey data reveal the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

Disparities across states and dwindling supplies

New York City is not the only city facing racial disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In New Jersey, about 48% of vaccine recipients were white, and only 3% were Black, despite the state’s Black population being 15%, according to state data. In Chicago, similar numbers were reported: only 15% of vaccine recipients were Black white 53% were white.

In addition to the racial disparities preventing the vaccine from reaching all demographics equally, vaccine supplies are also dwindling. 

In New York City, about 600,000 people have received a first dose of the vaccine since mid-December. Mayor Blasio has repeatedly said that the city is running out of doses and cannot accelerate the rollout without a greater supply. On Sunday, the city had only about 53,000 first doses left.

Currently there are more than 150 million people — almost half the U.S. population —eligible to be vaccinated. Each state determines who goes first, though, and currently the nation’s 21 million healthcare workers, three million residents in long-term care facilities, and high risk residents with medical conditions are top priority. 

Adults in the general population are at the back of the line and distribution issues will continue to push back eligibility unless federal and state health officials can clear up bottlenecks in distribution. If supply and distribution issues are remedied, everyone 16 and older may be eligible to receive the vaccine as early as this spring. 

To stay up-to-date and for more information on COVID-19 vaccine policies in your area, visit your state’s health website.

Latina worker

Record job losses in December push women out of the workforce en mass

This time last year, we were living in a pre-COVID-19 world. In this world, for three months, something rare happened in the workforce that had only only occurred one other time in history, nearly a decade ago: women held more jobs than men in the U.S. economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed this narrative, leading to record job losses for women. 

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Shocking gender gap in December job losses 

New data released last week has revealed that in December employers cut 140,000 jobs. A closer look at the data also reveals a shocking gender gap: Women accounted for all the job losses, losing 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000. Of course many men lost jobs as well in December, but when taken together as a group, they came out ahead while women fell behind. 

Additionally, a separate survey-study of households, which included self-employed workers, showed a wider gender disparity in the workforce while also revealing a significant racial and ethnic disparity: Black and Latina women made up the majority of job losses, while White women made significant gains. 

Racial and ethnic disparity in the workforce 

Black and Latina women disproportionately work in some of the hardest-hit sectors in the pandemic. These positions often lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home, putting Black and Latina women and families at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. As schools and daycares closed due to the virus, many women were forced to make the hard choice between work and parenting. In many situations, women chose to leave their careers to take on primary care-giving roles in the home, especially if there was an employed male in the household. 

You might be interested: Mariela Dabbah, the perils of a global pandemic for gender inclusion in the workplace

Overall, women are still down 5.4 million jobs from February, before the pandemic began, as compared to 4.4 million job losses for men. At the start of 2020 men and women were roughly on equal footing, with women holding 50.03% of jobs. However by the end of 2020 the gender disparity in the workforce now shows that women hold 860,000 fewer jobs than their male peers. 

This gap is largely due to increased job losses in three sectors: education — which remains a female-dominated industry — hospitality, and retail. All of these industries have been greatly affected by the pandemic.

In December, restaurants and bars cut the most jobs by far, and part-time workers were hit especially hard. 

Among women, Latinas currently have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Black women at 8.4%. White women have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7%.

As we continue into 2021, we must work toward recuperating these losses for women in the workforce and create better opportunities.

disproportionately hospitalized

Blacks, Latinxs, Native Americans hospitalized 4 times due to COVID-19 reflect health disparities

We are unfortunately now entering another phase of quarantining as many states begin to shut down again amid COVID-19 infection spike. And once again data shows that Black, Latinx, and Native American people are being  impacted the hardest by the virus. New data released by the CDC has revealed that since September, Black, Latino, and Native American people are being disproportionately hospitalized at about 4 times the rate of others. 

disproportionately hospitalized

Photo by Adhy Savala on Unsplash

People of color face disproportionate hospitalization rates

From March 1 to November 7, there have been 70,825 hospitalizations according to CDC data. White and non-Hispanic Black people represent the highest number of those hospitalizations, however racial and ethnic groups have still been disproportionately impacted. 

For Hispanic and Latinos, the rate of hospitalization is approximately 4.2 times the rate of non-Hispanic White persons as of November 7.

The same is true for Native American and non-Hispanic Black people, who have been hospitalized about 4.1 and 3.9 times the rate of non-Hispanic White persons.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

These findings are consistent with other data and reports that have revealed the racial and enthic health disparities nonwhite Americans have faced during this pandemic. 

For months, health officials have sounded the alarm about this trend. Speaking with CNN, director the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, Dr. Lisa Cooper, said, “We’ve learned a lot about how to treat this disease as well as more about how to prevent it with wearing masks and social distancing. The problem is that for people who still are having challenges with access to health care it doesn’t mean things are getting better for them.” 

Public health experts are now saying that significant change won’t happen until the compounding factors and health disparities that put these racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage are addressed. 

Health disparities and economic inequities increase the risk of exposure

Discrimination in social systems such as health care disproportionately impacts the lives of Hispanic, Black, and Native American people. Many are often uninsured and lack access to health care services. Others distrust the healthcare system after a history of racial discrimination. People of color are also at greater risk of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease which can make reactions to COVID-19 more severe. 

Additionally, people of color are more likely to have jobs that risk exposure to the virus in areas such as health care, food production, and public transportation. Economic inequities also mean that more people of color are likely to stay at these risky jobs out of financial necessity. 

“These are real situations that people have to deal with that impact the possibility that people feel like they don’t have a choice in terms of being able to stay home even if they have symptoms that could be in fact Covid-19 symptoms,” said Jarvis Chen, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

CDC data is a wake-up call for families and officials

These statistics showing that Black and Latinos are at an increased risk of infection, has now influenced many families to take action. 

In an article with CNN, Irene Skinner of Jefferson County, Alabama and mother of five said, “I don’t want to take a chance and put myself at risk, nor my kids, nor my mother.” 

Her county has had more than 26,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 27% of them involved Black people. Additionally more than 400 have died of the virus in Jefferson Country, half of which were Black according to local data

Irene’s five daughters now attend school virtually after high school principal, Van Phillips, reached out to families to explain how COVID-19 disproportionately is impacting people of color. 

The school now has the highest percentage of virtual students. 

“There are just some things that we have to do to save our lives,” said Phillips. 

The CDC’s latest data on the health disparities facing people of color should be a wake-up call to health and government officials to provide resources such as distribution of personal protective equipment, sensible pay policies, and the potential distribution of a vaccine. 

“The demographics tell part of the story but they should really direct us to think about how we target populations that will benefit the most in terms of protecting them,” said Chen.

racial and ethnic inequity

New data reveals disproportionate racial and ethnic disparities among COVID-19 cases

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the virus has affected the daily lives of all of us. However, COVID-19 has not affected as all equally. As we continue to learn more about the virus, new data collected by the COVID Tracking Project is revealing the racial and ethnic disparities among those infected and killed by the virus. 

Understanding the Disparities 

As of now, the U.S. has surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, and has reached nearly 7 million confirmed cases. From these cases, data has found that nationally, Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans have disproportionately higher rates of infection. These racial and ethnic groups have also experienced greater deaths, exceeding their share of the population. 

According to key findings from the COVID Tracking Project, Black Americans continue to get infected and die from COVID-19 at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population. Additionally, data shows that Hispanic and Latinos have a disproportionate rate of infection in 45 states and the District of Columbia. For Native Americans, their share of death and sickness is disproportionate to their population in 21 out of the 36 states with sufficient reporting data. In contrast, white, non-Hispanic cases have consistently remained disproportionately low nationally for their share of the population. 

The COVID Racial Data Tracker also did an analysis recently comparing white death rates to other groups and found that Hispanic and Native Americans are dying about 1.5 times the rate of white people, while Black Americans are dying at 2.4 times. 

CDC released data showing that Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians are experiencing hospitalizations at rates 4.5 to 5.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites. (Source: CDC.gov)

These health disparities are caused by a variety of factors, many of which are largely due to long-standing systemic health and social inequities. Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to face inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and access to healthcare.    

Key factors that contribute to increased risk

These are just some of the many inequities that put racial and ethnic minority groups at an increased risk of infection and death from COVI-19. 

Discrimination

Discrimination is plays a huge part in limiting who can access crucial services such as healthcare. It exists in systems such as housing, education, criminal justice, and finances as well, which greatly impact the quality of life for those who are part of a racial or ethnic minority group. Discrimination, which includes racism, can lead to chronic and toxic stress, which also affects one’s health and can put individuals at an increased risk for COVID-19. 

Healthcare access

Since people from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to experience discrimination in systems such as healthcare, this means many more are likely to be uninsured compared to non-Hispanic whites. Healthcare access can also be limited for these groups by other factors such as lack of reliable transportation, child care, ability to take time off work, and language barriers. A long history of discrimination in healthcare also may make some people hesitant to seek help from government and healthcare systems. 

Occupation 

People from racial and ethnic minority groups also face increased risk of infection due to their occupations. Many individuals from these groups are disproportionately represented in essential work positions such as healthcare facilities, grocery stores, farms, factories, and public transportation. They are put at an increased risk due to several factors, from poor working conditions, close contact to others, not being able to work from home, and not having paid sick days. 

Educational, income, and wealth gaps

Educational and economic inequity severely impacts the quality of life for many people in racial and ethnic minority groups. A recent study found that racial discrimination in these areas has cost the U.S. trillions over the last 20 years. Racial and ethnic discrimination in education limits future opportunities such as college admittance, job options, and income gain. People with limited job options are less likely to leave their job, even if it puts them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

Housing

Members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to face housing conditions that may increase their risk of exposure and infection. In many cultures, it is common for many generations of family to live together under one roof. This makes it difficult to follow prevention strategies such as social distancing. Additionally, due to previously mentioned factors such as discrimination and wealth gap, many cannot afford quality housing which poses greater health risks. Some also live in very cramped quarters with others, which also increased the risk of exposure and infection. Lastly, those who have lost their wages due to the pandemic are at a greater risk of eviction and homelessness. 

What We Can Do

The number one thing we can do is work together to ensure that all people have equal access to resources and information to maintain and manage their physical and mental health.

(Source: unsplash.com/@unitednations)

The CDC offers some guidelines and resources to help start this work. While the issue is large and complex, and dismantling inequities will involve work from all systems and institutions, each one of us can do our part to help dismantle these inequities. 

Key steps you can take to help reduce racial and ethnic inequities: 

  • Share COVID-19 prevention information and resources with communities disproportionately affected 
  • Work with trusted local media to share information in diverse formats and languages to reach all community members
  • Connect people to healthcare providers and medical resources, including free or low cost services, such as COVID-19 testing
  • Work to connect people with good and necessities such as healthy foods and housing