Publication Date



COVID-19, workforce, racial disparities, advanced practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, medical assistants, nursing aides, health equity


Among the U.S. health care workforce, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to greatly impact employment levels in 2020. However, no research has examined how the pandemic’s impact on employment varied by racial/ethnic group or beyond the initial emergency year. Our study aimed to quantitatively evaluate workforce trends by race/ethnicity before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. This study analyzed each March supplement of the Current Population Survey over a 5-year span (2018–2022). We restricted the sample to nurses, physician assistants, and other non-physician health care workers (HCW), per specific census occupation codes, and constructed an event-history study to test for differential effects from each year, as compared to 2019, on the proportion of employment between non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, Hispanic, non-Hispanic Native (American Indian, Alaska Native, Hawaiian Islander), and non-Hispanic Asian HCW. Results suggest that the pandemic’s negative impact on the health care workforce disproportionately reduced employment for HCW self-identifying as Black or Indigenous. Rates for other groups increased 2–3 percentage points in 2020 but returned to prepandemic levels by 2022. However, for Black and Native HCW, the change was twice as large in 2021 and remained significantly higher in 2022 for Black HCW, providing more evidence that the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately fell on people of color. Future research investigating how employment disruptions impacted the health care workforce and, potentially, health equity remains warranted.



November 7th, 2022


January 31st, 2023


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