What Drove Racial Disparities in the Paycheck Protection Program?
Numerous studies of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, have documented racial disparities in the program. Because publicly available PPP data only include information on approved loans, prior work has largely been unable to assess whether these disparities were driven by borrower application behavior or by lender approval decisions. In this post, which is based on a related Staff Report and NBER working paper, we use the Federal Reserve’s 2020 Small Business Credit Survey to examine PPP application behavior and approval decisions and to study the strengths and limitations of fintech lenders in enhancing access to credit for Black-owned businesses.
Do Veterans Face Disparities in the Labor Market—And What Accounts for Them?
We continue our series on military service and consider veterans’ earnings and labor market outcomes. We find that veterans earn more than 12 percent less and are 4 percentage points (18 percent) more likely to be out of the labor force than comparable nonveterans. Interestingly, accounting for veterans’ differences from comparable nonveterans in terms of education and disability status largely explains these labor market differences.
Does the CRA Increase Household Access to Credit?
Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977 to encourage banks to meet the needs of borrowers in the areas in which they operate. In particular, the Act is focused on credit access to low- and moderate-income communities that had historically been subject to discriminatory practices like redlining.
Rural Households Hit Hardest by Inflation in 2021-22
To conclude our series, we present disparities in inflation rates by U.S. census region and rural status between June 2019 and the present. Notably, rural households were hit by inflation the hardest during the 2021-22 inflationary episode. This is intuitive, as rural households rely on transportation, and especially on motor fuel, to a much greater extent than urban households do. More generally, the recent rise in inflation has affected households in the South more than the national average, and households in the Northeast by less than the national average, though this difference has decreased in the last few months. Once again, these changes in inflation patterns can be explained by transportation inflation driving a large extent of price rises during 2021 and much of 2022, with housing and food inflation lately coming to the fore.
Young, Less Educated Faced Higher Inflation in 2021—But Gaps Now Closed
We continue our series on inflation disparities by looking at disparities in inflation rates by educational attainment and age for the period June 2019 to the present. Remarkably, we find that disparities by age and education are considerably larger than those by income and are similar in size to those by race and ethnicity, both explored in our previous post. Specifically, during the inflationary period of 2021-22, younger people and people without a college degree faced the highest inflation, with steadily widening gaps relative to the overall average between early 2021 and June 2022, followed by a rapid narrowing of the gaps and a reversal of some of them by December 2022. This pattern arises primarily from a greater share of the expenditures of younger people and people without a college degree being devoted to transportation—particularly used cars and motor fuel—which led the 2021 inflationary episode but has since converged to general inflation.
Inflation Disparities by Race and Income Narrow
As inflation has risen to forty-year highs, inflation inequality—disparities in the rates of inflation experienced by different demographic and economic groups– has become an increasingly important concern. In this three-part blog series, we revisit our main finding from June—that inflation inequality has increased across racial and ethnic groups—and provide estimates of differential inflation rates across groups based on income, education, age, and geographic location. We also use an updated methodology for computing inflation disparities by focusing on more disaggregated categories of spending, which corroborates our earlier findings and substantiates our conclusion that inflation inequality is a pronounced feature of the current inflationary episode.
Long COVID Appears to Have Led to a Surge of the Disabled in the Workplace
Although most of those infected with COVID-19 have recovered relatively quickly, a substantial share has not, and remains symptomatic months or even years later, in what is commonly referred to as long COVID. Data on the incidence of long COVID is scarce, but recent Census Bureau data suggest that sixteen million working age Americans suffer from it. The economic costs of long COVID is estimated to be in the trillions. While many with long COVID have dropped out of the labor force because they can no longer work, many others appear to be working despite having disabilities related to the disease. Indeed, there has been an increase of around 1.7 million disabled persons in the U.S. since the pandemic began, and there are close to one million newly disabled workers. These disabled workers can benefit from workplace accommodations to help them remain productive and stay on the job, particularly as the majority deal with fatigue and brain fog, the hallmarks of long COVID.
How Have Racial and Ethnic Earnings Gaps Changed after COVID-19?
Racial and ethnic earnings disparities have been salient features of the U.S. economy for decades. Between the pandemic-driven recession in 2020 and the rising inflation since 2021, workers’ real and nominal earnings have seen rapid change. To get a sense of how recent economic conditions have affected earnings disparities, we examine real and nominal weekly earnings trends for Asian, Black, Hispanic, and white workers. We find that average real weekly earnings have been declining in the past year, but less so for Black and Hispanic workers than for white and Asian workers. Black and Hispanic workers have also experienced small increases in real earnings since the pre-pandemic period.
Revisiting Federal Student Loan Forgiveness: An Update Based on the White House Plan
On August 24, 2022, the White House released a plan to cancel federal student loans for most borrowers. In April, we wrote about the costs and who most benefits from a few hypothetical loan forgiveness proposals using our Consumer Credit Panel, based on Equifax credit report data. In this post, we update our framework to consider the White House plan now that parameters are known, with estimates for the total amount of forgiven loans and the distribution of who holds federal student loans before and after the proposed debt jubilee.
Small Business Recovery after Natural Disasters
The first post of this series found that small businesses owned by people of color are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. In this post, we focus on the aftermath of disasters, and examine disparities in the ability of firms to reopen their businesses and access disaster relief. Our results indicate that Black-owned firms are more likely to remain closed for longer periods and face greater difficulties in obtaining the immediate relief needed to cope with a natural disaster.