Why have African communities been impacted more by COVID-19 than other communities?

Written by: Yusof Hassan

To say race is merely a colour is to neglect current issues. Multiple correlations in data show that with different races come different consequences to shocks in the economy. COVID-19 has exposed the ugly truth of these correlations, and this article briefly asks the question of what these truths are.

Sources like the ONS show that Black African ethnicities have had mortality rates that were 2-2.5x higher than for people of White Ethnicity. The cause of this can be simplified to the exposure to COVID-19 that African community members have experienced, and this can be connected to employment opportunities available to African communities.

Firstly, according to a GAIN 2018 research paper, negative experiences of African community members in Nottingham express instances mainly of racism, followed by the problem of language barriers—both reasons that could hinder African community members’ chances at employment, especially in the sectors and specific job roles that allow their workers to work from home/minimise their exposure to COVID-19.

The second, more theoretical reason, is something I will call the The Immigrant Paradox/Mentality, which pushes minority community members more into in-person jobs. This mentality is adopted mostly by immigrant workers, where workers are more aware/cautious of the risk of losing their job, and so they work hard to earn it (broadly speaking, as this will not apply to everyone). 

Even if community members are not first-generation immigrants, this mentality can still persist, since evidence suggests cultures persist throughout generations (Algan and Cahuc 2010) and so the work ethic and awareness of opposition by anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe will be passed down to current BAME community members. Unlike the English who are born in the country, many immigrant families have come with the sole purpose to work.

As a result, their work ethic has been passed down through the subsequent generation(s), meaning a higher percentage of minorities will pursue jobs in ‘in-person’ sectors such as medicine (NHS), compared to the percentage of white British workers. Consequently, African community members have been more exposed to the disease.

This mentality can be analysed specifically in Nottingham by looking again at the GAIN research paper, which shows that the African community’s two greatest needs are academic study and employment, which are valued at least three times more than emotional/psychological needs. 

But note that this article is about how these communities have been impacted by COVID-19, not just about those that have died. Sadly, the lack of financial stability can cause a serious deterioration in mental health and has been seen to rise specifically in Black African and Indian ethnic groups. Although mental health impacts of COVID-19 on African communities and their possible solutions are incredibly important, they aren’t the focus of this article. Nevertheless, information about these serious issues can be found on this website.

Sources-    “Why Have Black and South Asian People Been Hit Hardest by COVID-19?” 2020. Ons.gov.uk. Office for National Statistics. December 14, 2020. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/whyhaveblackandsouthasianpeoplebeenhithardestbycovid19/2020-12-14.

“GAIN Diaspora African Communities in Nottingham Research – 2018”. 2018. GAIN.

Algan, Yann, and Pierre Cahuc. 2010. “Inherited Trust and Growth.” American Economic Review 100 (5): 2060–92. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.100.5.2060.


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