Liberty Street Economics recently released a study in which it examined different types of jobs, categorizing them as having low or high work-from-home capability as well as high or low physical proximity with others. These categorizations resulted from their research question: which workers bear the burden of social distancing the most?
The researchers found:
Examining the characteristics paints a consistent picture: workers in LWFH [low work from home] occupations are economically more vulnerable in ways that we try to measure. They are more likely to work in smaller firms, which are on average less financially robust and so more likely to suffer from the financial effects of the crisis. They are more likely to rent rather than own their homes and so will not be in positions to take advantage of interest rate cuts, and have fewer collateralizable assets to borrow against to compensate for earnings losses.
Workers in these jobs are also less likely to have access to informal insurance channels that may help them weather the crisis. They are less likely to be married, a status that helps protect household income against individual income risk. They are less likely to be U.S. citizens or born in the United States. Finally, workers in low work-from-home occupations are more likely to have unstable employment; the data show that they are less likely to be employed full-time and more likely to have recently experienced unemployment.
While it probably doesn’t take a study to tell us that lower-income Americans are suffering the most, the study does drive home the point. As the study concludes:
The results quantify how much the most vulnerable disproportionately work in professions that suffer the most from a pandemic lockdown.
Thankfully, many regions throughout the country are reopening and some have been able to return to work. But the millions who have joined the ranks of the unemployed show the devastating effects of the lockdowns.
The human toll of the pandemic is tragic, and should be properly recognized and mourned, but the effects of the pandemic reach far beyond death tolls – increasing levels of domestic abuse, suicide, and drug use add to the victims of this pandemic.
Of course, the reopening will be slow and cautious, as it should be, but we must hope that people will be able to return to work and slowly but surely, America will once again inspire and support the entrepreneurial spirit that is ablaze in so many Americans.