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The Early Impact of Covid-19 on Job Losses among Black Women in the United States


  • Michelle Holder
  • Janelle Jones
  • Thomas Masterson


Given that a high proportion of workers in “essential” sectors of the US economy are Black women, this paper seeks to answer the following: in which occupations did Black women in the US experience the greatest job losses during the early phase of the pandemic? Drawing on feminist economic and stratification economic theories, this quantitative analysis suggests that the greatest losses were cashier jobs in the hotel and restaurant industry, and childcare worker positions in the healthcare and social services industry. These two occupations are low wage, dominated by women, and considered essential. This study posits that Black women disproportionately lost these jobs for three reasons: (1) Black women’s strong attachment to the US workforce; (2) Black women’s overrepresentation in the hotel/restaurant and healthcare/social services industries; and (3) women’s overrepresentation in low-wage occupations. The study offers policy solutions that could help sustain the Black community during the pandemic-inspired economic downturn.HIGHLIGHTS Black women face occupational segregation that is specific to both their gender and their race.Black women’s employment is more narrowly concentrated by industry than any other demographic group.Job losses due to COVID-19 especially hit industries in which Black women are concentrated.Black women lost the most jobs in the cashier occupation.Any pandemic-recovery policy agenda must include full employment for Black women.

Suggested Citation

  • Michelle Holder & Janelle Jones & Thomas Masterson, 2021. "The Early Impact of Covid-19 on Job Losses among Black Women in the United States," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(1-2), pages 103-116, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:27:y:2021:i:1-2:p:103-116
    DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2020.1849766

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    Cited by:

    1. Kenneth A. Couch & Robert W. Fairlie & Huanan Xu, 2022. "The evolving impacts of the COVID‐19 pandemic on gender inequality in the US labor market: The COVID motherhood penalty," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 60(2), pages 485-507, April.
    2. Samuel R. Friedman & Ashly E. Jordan & David C. Perlman & Georgios K. Nikolopoulos & Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, 2022. "Emerging Zoonotic Infections, Social Processes and Their Measurement and Enhanced Surveillance to Improve Zoonotic Epidemic Responses: A “Big Events” Perspective," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(2), pages 1-11, January.
    3. Lan, Guijie & Song, Baojun & Yuan, Sanling, 2023. "Epidemic threshold and ergodicity of an SEIR model with vertical transmission under the telegraph noise," Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, Elsevier, vol. 167(C).
    4. Ana Tribin & Karen García-Rojas & Paula Herrera-Idarraga & Leonardo Fabio Morales & Natalia Ramirez-Bustamante, 2023. "Shecession: The Downfall of Colombian Women During the Covid-19 Pandemic," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(4), pages 158-193, October.
    5. Timothy J. Grigsby & Krista Howard & Jeffrey T. Howard & Jessica Perrotte, 2023. "COVID-19 Concerns, Perceived Stress, and Increased Alcohol Use Among Adult Women in the United States," Clinical Nursing Research, , vol. 32(1), pages 84-93, January.
    6. Jacob Jennings & Jacqueline Strenio & Iris Buder, 2022. "Occupational prestige: American stratification," Review of Evolutionary Political Economy, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 575-598, October.
    7. Rosa Luz Durán, 2022. "COVID-19 and heterogeneous vulnerabilities in the Peruvian labor market: implications for social inequalities and for gender gaps," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 39(1), pages 129-156, April.
    8. Corsi, Marcella & Ilkkaracan, Ipek, 2022. "COVID-19, Gender and Labour," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1012, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    9. Grace Armijos-Bravo & Segundo Camino-Mogro, 2023. "Covid-19 Lockdown in Ecuador: Are there Gender Differences in Unemployment?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 59(6), pages 833-853, June.
    10. Strenio, Jacqueline & van der Meulen Rodgers, Yana, 2023. "Integrating Gender into a Labor Economics Class," IZA Discussion Papers 15886, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure


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