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The Coronavirus Class Divide in Cities

Places like New York, Miami and Las Vegas have a higher share of the workforce in jobs with close proximity to others, putting them at greater Covid-19 risk.
Supermarket workers are among the most vulnerable.
Supermarket workers are among the most vulnerable.Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg

The coronavirus is exposing a longstanding class divide in the way Americans work — between the low-paid front-line workers and the stay-at-home professionals with more job security and benefits. The first group — the grocery clerks, delivery workers, transit workers, food service workers, emergency responders, physicians’ assistants, and nurses’ aides — are exposed to Covid-19 in their day-to-day jobs and often on long public transit commutes. The second group is dependent on of the very services provided by these workers.

This divide also expresses itself in geography. Just as this virus hits harder in some places than others and hits hardest in clusters of the aged, the infirmed and the truly disadvantaged, the workforces of some cities and metro areas are more exposed and more vulnerable, too.