Concern about pandemic differs across gender and race lines

Some interesting public opinion research (check the article for the charts):

A common thread that connects all Canadians these days is worry. We worry about our senior relatives, children home from school struggling with online lessons, sky-rocketing unemployment, the safety of essential workers and working from home instead of well-equipped offices.

The current pandemic has most Canadians worried as COVID-19 touches every corner of the society and people valiantly try to do their part to slow the spread of the disease. In a recent survey by the Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-Dem), we found that most Canadians are at least a little worried about how COVID-19 will affect their household.  As Figure 1 indicates, fears that someone in their household could contract the disease posed the biggest worry, with the economic impact also raising concerns. Fewer Canadians  worried about access to basic goods.

Yet, while everyone might be worried, we cannot ignore an important truth: the disease itself, and its vast societal consequences, are not affecting all Canadians equally. The current coronavirus crisis has highlighted the considerable care-taking roles of women in the home and in the labour force – in health care, long-term care, personal support work and essential service sectors. Women are on the front-lines helping to keep Canadians healthy and supplied with necessities.

At the same time, women have also been the hardest hit by pandemic-related job losses, as Statistics Canada’s March jobs report first revealed. Cutting across this gender difference, racialized and immigrant workers are particularly affected given their employment in industries with high COVID-19 infection rates, such as meat-packing plants and long-term care homes. Immigrant women, especially Filipino women, are concentrated in nursing and caregiving professions. Visible minorities make up nearly a majority of peopleworking as personal support workers in Ontario, of whom 96 percent are women.

Beyond the economics, COVID-19 also has differential infection rates in Canada. Early evidence from other countries provided little evidence of sex-differentiated COVID-19 infection rates, but reported higher fatality rates for men.

Canadian data seem to tell a different story. As of mid-May, women account for 55 per cent of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 53 per cent of deaths in Canada, though the trend varies across the country. Some provinces, including the two largest (Quebec and Ontario), report women-skewed infection rates, but some others (for example Alberta and BC) report essentially no difference.

Part of the story could be who is able to get tested – as more women work in health and long-term care settings, they have priority. And we do not yet have good data on racialized gaps in infection rates because provincial and federal authorities in Canada have not collected race-disaggregated data throughout the pandemic.  However, several provincial and municipal health authorities have started or are developing processes for this (for example, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, and the City of Toronto’s public health unit).

Preliminary evidence suggests that infection rates are higher in Canada among black and immigrant communities and a recent study suggests that neighborhoods with higher ethnic density had less testing but higher infection rates.

Because we know that people are being affected differently in material ways by the pandemic, does this extend to the mental burden of general worries as well? Are certain subgroups of society more concerned about the illness and the economic upheaval than others?

In our survey, women generally expressed more worry than men about contracting the disease and the economic impact on their families and follow-up analyses determined that this could not be attributed to parental status. Mothers were not distinguishable from fathers, or from women without children, once controls were added to our models. That said, gender-role norms that women are more maternal or caring than men could still drive the gender gap in worry, whether respondents have children or not.

In Figure 2, we explore these gender gaps in more detail by exploring how concerns varied by immigration and visible minority status. It shows the predicted levels of worry after controlling for a host of demographic factors. In other words, after controlling for differences among these groups in socio-economic status, age, etc., do we still see significant differences?

The most dramatic gender gap appears, as Figure 2 shows, with immigrant women, who show the highest levels of concern Still, visible minority immigrants that are men are almost equally as concerned across our measures of worry. The heightened level of worry is consistent with the observation that the front line of the pandemic response is gendered and racialized.

Academic studies argue that the workforce in long-term care homes is not well researched or understood. What is clear is that care aides perform the majority of direct care to clients in these facilities, and that this occupational group is predominantly female and in some cases half of them are immigrant workers.

Current figures place long-term care homes at the centre of the pandemic, with reports that they are connected to 79 per cent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada. In this context, it is not surprising that immigrant women are significantly more worried and concerned about their chances or their family’s likelihood of contracting the virus.

The messaging of the COVID-19 crisis so far has been important and effective. Government leaders and public health authorities have emphasized the importance of physical distancing, while maintaining solidarity and connection. The mantra has been that we are “in this together.”

Our data suggest an important corollary. Attention needs to be paid – now and after the pandemic has ended – to how worries and risks differ across social groups. We know that mental health risks are just as real as physical health risk during the pandemic, so paying attention to who is bearing the burden of worry is extremely important. Looking at the data this way not only documents differences and inequalities, but encourages empathy – and perhaps crucial policy responsiveness and accountability as society recovers.

Source: Concern about pandemic differs across gender and race lines

Threats to academic freedom aren’t just a white-guy problem

One of the more thoughtful commentaries on the Potter controversy from a different angle by Amanda Bittner, Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Erin Tolley (disclosure: Erin is a former colleague):

Look at the demographics of any large organization, and you’ll find that most positions of power are occupied by white men. That’s true, too, of academia. In Canadian universities, there are almost no Indigenous administrators or administrators of colour; tenured positions, particularly at the highest levels, belong disproportionately to white men. Women, people of colour, and Indigenous peoples typically don’t have the opportunity to lose their prestigious positions amid controversy because they don’t even get those positions to begin with.

Adjunct and contract positions—the most precarious academic work of all—are often carried out by women, Indigenous scholars, and scholars of colour.As one U.S. study notes, just as under-represented groups began to gain a toehold in the professoriate, the academic job market contracted. Permanent positions have been replaced by those with almost no job protection, as well as long hours and little institutional support. Even if scholars in these roles had time to pen op-eds on controversial topics, seeing a person of privilege be so easily cut loose would almost certainly only heighten the instinct for women, Indigenous scholars and scholars of colour to stay quiet. And yet these are the voices we need.

We know we also write from a position of privilege: we are white women (two with tenure, one without) who work in academic institutions and have the luxury to follow these debates on social media. And yet, whenever we comment publicly on an issue, we look over our shoulders and wonder about the potential effect that public engagement might have on our careers. We debated the wisdom of even commenting on this case, concerned as we are about the blowback it might elicit, but we are intervening because we believe that the burden of exposing problematic institutional practices shouldn’t fall only on the shoulders of the most marginalized.

This isn’t just a white-guy problem. The incident sends a signal to our colleagues who have important things to say, who don’t have a platform of privilege from which to say it, and who don’t have a safety net to fall back on if things go south—or a coterie of well-connected commenters who mount a forceful defence. When voices are silenced by universities, there is a real risk to those who dare make controversial observations based in rigorous empirical research, or conclusions that point to systemic discrimination, injustice, and current and past wrongs. These are things that might “bother” or “offend” the public, and which have the potential to place even greater pressure on institutions.

Indeed, McGill’s principal, Suzanne Fortier, suggests that the Institute’s role is not “to provoke, but to promote good discussion.” This is a prescription for tepid public discourse. We have brilliant colleagues whose provocative voices need to be made louder, not silenced. And if universities can’t stand up to this pressure and defend their researchers on the “easy” cases—like ones involving a privileged white man—they most certainly won’t have the courage to do so when confronted with the “difficult” ones.

Source: Threats to academic freedom aren’t just a white-guy problem –

Parties pigeonhole visible minority candidates

Visible_minorities_Candidates_2004-11Good analysis and necessary to complement the under-representation of women (see Debate about the women’s debate missed a bigger point: Antoinia Maioni) by Elizabeth Goodyear-Grant and Erin Tolley:

So far, we have heard quite a bit about the selection of women and Indigenous candidates, but comparatively little about visible minority candidates. This is surprising given parties’ efforts to appeal to visible minority voters and Canada’s increasing racial diversity.

Visible minorities now make up 19 per cent of the Canadian population. The proportion of candidates with visible minority backgrounds is basically unchanged since 2004 — hovering around 9 per cent — even though the proportion of visible minorities in Canada has steadily increased.

In 110 of the country’s 338 ridings, visible minorities make up 20 per cent or more of the population, up from 90 ridings in 2011. The visible minority population is thus significant in both magnitude and scope. Even so, just 13.5 per cent of candidates nominated for the three major parties so far have visible minority backgrounds. That’s 131 out of 964 nominated candidates, with 50 nominations still to come.

It is not just about absolute numbers though. Importantly, in 54 per cent of ridings (183 of 338), there isn’t a single visible minority candidate running for any of the three major parties. In those ridings with incomplete nominations, 11 per cent (36 of 338) so far have only white candidates on the ticket. In other words, it is possible that in nearly two-thirds of the country’s ridings, ballots will not include a competitive visible minority candidate.

Although many of these all-white contests are in rural ridings with small visible minority populations, many are not. In Scarborough-Guildwood, for example, visible minorities make up 68 per cent of the population, but the candidates for the three competitive parties are all white (although, notably, the Conservative candidate is a Dutch immigrant). In Ajax, Chris Alexander, the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, is running against two other white competitors.

Meanwhile, in eight ridings, three visible minority candidates will square off against one another; in these ridings, the visible minority population averages 74 per cent. This suggests that parties’ wholehearted endorsement of visible minority candidacies only occurs in a handful of ridings where visible minority voters are in the overwhelming majority. At the same time, parties clearly have no problem running an entirely white slate of candidates in ridings with large visible minority populations.

The strategic placement of visible minority candidates in only the most diverse ridings lulls us into thinking that our politics is inclusive, while simultaneously capping the number of seats that visible minority candidates might ever win. Not only is this contrary to Canada’s multicultural ethos, but it is a flawed electoral strategy.

Our own research shows that white voters are about as open to visible minority candidates as they are to white candidates. When visible minority candidates run, they can win, even outside the most racially diverse ridings. But parties tend to limit the electoral prospects of visible minority candidates by pitting them against each other and nominating them primarily in the most racially diverse ridings.

The one qualification to their sound analysis lies in using the number of visible minorities that are also Canadian citizens, making the benchmark 15 rather than 19 percent used.

Source: Parties pigeonhole visible minority candidates | Toronto Star