Latinas in the U.S. were among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. An AAUW research project documents the health and economic repercussions — and outlines policy priorities to aid in the recovery.

Black and white photo of a smiling latina woman.
Fact Sheet

The Status of Latinas

The success of Latinas and that of the United States are inextricably linked. With a population hovering near 30 million, Latinas are both a vital base of support for the U.S. economy and critically influential as voters. But even though their contributions boost the national economy, many see little return for their work. More than half of Latinas are second-, third- and fourth- generation Americans, yet deeply rooted structural inequities in education, health and the economy limit their ability to build generational wealth. Latinos as a whole contributed $2.6 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2019, yet Latinas still earn 55 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

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Black and white photo of a latina woman looking out a window wearing a surgical mask.
Research Report

Pandemic Inequity: Latinas and the COVID-19 Experience

While COVID-19 is capable of infecting anyone, the level of risk is far from equal. Data show that Black and Latino communities, already suffering from deep-rooted economic and health inequalities, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Latinas, in particular, have suffered some of the most egregious economic and health disparities over the past year. Latinas were already saddled with significant disadvantages pre-pandemic; they had lower wages, higher levels of poverty and were the least likely to have access to health care compared to other demographic groups. COVID-19 compounded these inequities, and the outcomes for Latinas have been devastating.

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Low Wage, High Risk

At the height of the pandemic, the unemployment rate for Latinas exceeded 20%, the highest among all workers. While the nation’s overall job numbers have improved, the unemployment rate for Latinas in the first quarter of 2021 was still 3% higher than it was during the same period in 2020.

Black and white photo of a smiling latina woman in casual clothes.
In Their Words

Stories of Struggles — and Hope

Lifting up Latina voices is vital to ensuring a full and fair recovery from the health and economic crises of 2020. The women we interviewed described their pandemic experiences and its impact on the economic stability and physical and mental health of them and their families.

I have always struggled, but Covid has made it much worse.
Cristalray D., Colorado

I was born and raised here in Alamosa, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. I live in the same house I grew up in, my grandmother’s house. My mom passed away when I was 6, from cancer. My stepdad moved out and took my sister with him. My own dad has been in and out of my life. I share this because these struggles have made me who I am. I am very independent and accustomed to fighting for myself.

It was very isolating, living in the same house but not being able to engage with my family.
Jessica Z., Illinois

I’ve been working in the HIV field for about six years. A lot of my work is educating the community, doing rapid testing, informing people of their status, and promoting sexual health. I’m very passionate about my work; I like empowering people with correct information because we get so much unreliable information from outside sources. The population that I work with is predominantly African American and Latino, usually between ages of 30 to 50, mostly males and same-sex couples.

Right now, with tuition alone, I think I owe about $82,000.
Julia J., Florida

So many things have been up in the air for the past year because of COVID. I’m in my last semester of Occupational Therapy school, and I have field work starting in May in Chicago, which is very exciting. I’ve only ever lived in Florida. I grew up in Miami Beach and then moved to Miami. I then went to the University of Florida for undergrad. So I wanted to try something a little bit different by going to another state.

So many people don’t have a voice in the system. We must act so they’re not left behind.
Maria L., New York

I was born in Cali, Colombia, and immigrated to the U.S. with my parents when I was eight. I was raised in Queens and remained undocumented until mid-way through college. After I got my legal standing, I applied to medical school. I’ve been an attending physician in pediatric emergency medicine for five years.

Black and white photo of a Cuban woman.
Policy Recommendations

The Necessary Next Steps

Despite their numbers, Latinas are rarely at the center of public discourse or policy reform considerations. Yet as we strive to recover from the the pandemic, it is essential to address the specific needs of those communities that were hardest hit. This includes guaranteeing access to affordable health care, extending economic benefits to all Latinas, regardless of immigration status and strengthening job protections for essential workers in frontline occupations.

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