COVID-19: Investing in black lives and livelihoods

By Aria Florant, Nick Noel, Shelley Stewart III, and Jason Wright

Amid the rising deaths, infections, and possible economic implosion of the COVID-19 pandemic, our country’s most pressing need is to save lives and arrest any plunge into a prolonged recession or depression. The crisis is already hitting major social and economic systems, yet black Americans will experience a disproportionate share of the disruption—from morbidity and mortality to unemployment and bankruptcy.

McKinsey analysis shows that black Americans are almost twice as likely to live in the counties at highest risk of health and economic disruption, if or when the pandemic hits those counties.1 To assess disruption, we evaluated five indicators: underlying health conditions, poverty rate, number of hospital beds, percentage of people in severe housing conditions, and population density. This integrated health and economic perspective describes which counties are likely to take a “one-two punch” due to the pandemic and could get trapped in a vicious cycle of economic instability and poor health.

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