In recent weeks, the United States has seen a steady surge in COVID-19 cases with California rates also increasing dramatically. As of November 29, 1,212,968 Californians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 19,141 have died from the disease. Since COVID-19 arrived, our state and nation have begun a prolonged economic recession. Millions of Californians across all racial and ethnic groups have found themselves out of work and many businesses are profoundly struggling. The staggering health and economic impact of COVID-19 has been disproportionately felt among communities of color and low-income communities across the country. While this is the case in California as well, the impact of COVID-19 has been felt overwhelmingly among the Latino community.

Prior to the pandemic, California Latinos were consistently underrepresented among the state’s upper-income groups and overrepresented in the state’s lower-income groups, including among those living in poverty. More Latinos work in industries that are low paying and hit hardest by public health shutdowns such as with COVID-19. When not forced out of work, Latinos are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 while on the job and more likely to be at risk at home in close, multigenerational housing. This pandemic has magnified the urgency of addressing structural causes of economic inequality that have harmed Latinos in California. As the largest racial and ethnic group in California, the economic well-being of Latinos is an undeniable driver of the state’s overall economic health. Latino purchasing power was $359 billion or 19.5% of the state total in 2016.5 Latinos make up a significant and growing portion of California’s workforce. Leading up to the pandemic, Latinos in the state were 37.4% of the employed population (employed civilians over 16 years of age). When the California economy is rebuilt after the devastation of COVID-19, Latinos must not be left behind. California will not fully recover if its Latino community does not. The economic wellbeing of Latinos, including the presence of a strong Latino middle class, is crucial to ensuring the greater well-being of all Californians.

This research brief provides data to inform a greater understanding of the disparate impact of COVID-19 on Latino health and economic well-being in California. It examines two key research questions (see Table 2 for measures and data sources):

  1. What is the state of COVID-19 in the California Latino community?
  2. How has COVID-19 impacted California Latino economic well-being?

Key Findings

  • Latinos are overrepresented among California’s COVID-19 cases and deaths - 59% of cases and 49% of the state’s deaths.
  • Latino overrepresentation in California’s cases has increased since April 2020.
  • Nearly 12% of California Latinos are currently uninsured – double the rate of other groups.
  • Latino unemployment rates are double those from the same time last year.
  • Nearly two-thirds of California Latinos report experiencing a loss of employment income since March 2020.
  • Over 40% percent of Latinos currently report that it is somewhat or very difficult to pay their usual household expenses in the last 7 days.
  • Over three-quarters of California small business owners report that COVID-19 has had a moderate to large negative effect on their business.