When Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari announced the creation
of the Institute in 2017, he emphasized the need to better understand,
through research and data, our economy’s racial and economic
disparities. Little did he know that Minneapolis would become home
to the grim spark that ignited a national conversation about opportunity,
an inclusive economy and, fundamentally, racism and criminal justice.
And none of us in the economics community could have known we’d be faced with a
global pandemic at the same time we struggled with George Floyd’s death at the hands
of the police. His killing and the demonstrations it sparked literally hit close to home, in
neighborhoods where many of our staff live.
We highlight COVID-19 and the Institute’s work related to it in this issue of For All. But
we also present a call to action for economists from Advisory Board member
William Spriggs. His letter is an accelerator for us at the Institute, encouraging us
to invest more deeply and move faster on efforts to model and foster inclusion in our
day-to-day operations and research. In coming issues, we’ll report on our commitments
to inclusion in practice and research.
The coronavirus’ test of the Institute concept cuts
across disciplinary lines, touching public health, worker
safety and security, community resilience, and financial
stability. It requires a response that crosses between
research fields and between scholars and the communities
Abigail Wozniak is the director of
the Opportunity & Inclusive Growth
Institute and a senior research
economist at the Minneapolis Fed.
For me, examining in real time the impacts of COVID-19 on the well-being of Americans
was a priority. Because of the fast-moving virus and policymakers’ need to know
how it affected people, I felt we couldn’t wait.
On March 26, we posted on our website a proposal I developed. With the help of our
interdisciplinary academic Advisory Board, I created a survey tool and was able to partner
with the Data Foundation to make the COVID Impact Survey, or CIS, a reality.
A key element of the survey was its focus on specific geographic areas. This was
not only a national survey, but also one that policymakers in 10 states and eight cities
could use to understand COVID-19’s effects on their communities. In selecting a
range of locations, we could also understand the impact across different demographic
groups. This same approach was later adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau for its rapid
response Household Pulse Survey.
By April 30, we were in the field, comparing COVID-19-era responses with pre-COVID-19 benchmarks, including measures of employment, hours, social connectedness,
food security, and mental health. A second key feature of the CIS was its focus on
surveying a broad set of outcomes and behaviors that could be expected to be hit by the
outbreak. We drilled down to analyze measures locally.
By June 11, we collected a series of critical results: first, massive reductions across the
board on multiple measures of well-being; second, substantial differences across states
and metro areas in the size of those reductions, with some places faring worse than others.
These differences were not linked to pre-COVID-19 place features. Rather, larger shares
of the hardest hit workers appear more responsible for these differences, including workers
of color, particularly Latinos, younger workers, and those with school-aged children.
To read more about the CIS, go to covid-impact.org/results. And see our Data Dive.
Institute scholars will continue to help policymakers and the public better understand
COVID-19’s impacts. But, as Bill Spriggs tells us, our work on many other matters
is just beginning.