Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Structural Racism Puts People of Color at Greater Risk During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress demonstrates why and how structural racism puts communities of color at greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus and concludes that communities of color will likely face worse health outcomes if they contract the virus. The findings include:

  • People of color disproportionately reside in densely populated metropolitan areas, which could increase the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
  • Higher rates of serious chronic health conditions make the coronavirus potentially more dangerous for people of color. Structural and environmental racism contribute to higher rates of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and diabetes in communities of color, which puts people of color in the higher-risk group for coronavirus complications.
  • Barriers in the health care system may prevent people of color from obtaining necessary care. Many people of color struggle to obtain the care they need due to cost, language access, and outright discrimination.

The analysis also provides the following policy recommendations for protecting people of color and other vulnerable communities, including:

  • Ensuring paid sick leave and paid family leave for all workers
  • Securing additional translation services for hospitals and health clinics
  • Ensuring low-income individuals have access to no-cost testing and treatment related to COVID-19
  • Ensuring official coronavirus-related publications are translated for single-language minority groups with a large presence in their jurisdiction
  • Sending cash and other financial assistance directly to households

“People of color will likely be the hardest hit by the coronavirus because of the structural racism embedded into every facet of American life—from housing segregation to access to medical care” said Connor Maxwell, senior policy analyst for Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the analysis. “It is imperative for policymakers to recognize the disproportionate barriers that people of color face in keeping themselves and their families safe and take steps that will help communities of color such as guaranteeing paid leave, providing translation services, and ensuring low-income individuals have no-cost access to COVID-19 testing.”

Read: “Coronavirus Compounds Inequality and Endangers Communities of Color” by Connor Maxwell

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.