Report on Human Rights Violations in the United States in 2020
V. Growing Polarization Between Rich and Poor Aggravates Social Inequality
The COVID-19 epidemic plunged the United States into the worst economic downturn since World War II. A large number of businesses shut down, workers lost their jobs, the gap between rich and poor widened, and the lives of the people at the bottom of society were miserable.
The rich-poor divide further widened. The website of Bloomberg reported on Oct. 8, 2020 that the 50 richest Americans now hold almost as much wealth as the poorest 165 million people in the country. The richest 1 percent of Americans have a combined net worth that is 16.4 times that of the poorest 50 percent. The epidemic has aggravated wealth inequality. The website of Forbes reported on Dec. 11, 2020 that over the past months of the pandemic, the collective net worth of America's 614 billionaires has increased by 931 billion U.S. dollars. America's poverty rate jumped to 11.7 percent in November 2020, up from 9.3 percent in June, according to researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Notre Dame.
Out-of-control epidemic led to mass unemployment. The speed and magnitude of business closures and job losses defied comparison, according to a report on the website of The Washington Post on May 9, 2020. Some 20.5 million people abruptly lost their jobs, which was roughly double what the nation experienced during the entire financial crisis from 2007 to 2009. In April 2020, the unemployment rate soared to 21.2 percent for people with less than a high school degree, surpassing the previous all-time high set in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The website of USA Today reported on Aug. 8, 2020 that 33 U.S. metro areas had a jobless rate of over 15 percent in June 2020. About 11.5 million American women lost their jobs between February and May 2020.
Tens of millions of people were in food crisis in the epidemic. More than 50 million people－one in six Americans, including one in four children－could experience food insecurity in 2020, according to an analysis report updated in October 2020 by Feeding America. The website of the Guardian reported on Nov. 25, 2020 that nationwide, demand for food aid has plateaued at about 60 percent higher than pre-pandemic times. Millions of Americans must rely on charity to put Thanksgiving dinner on the table in 2020.
Health insurance coverage plummeted. America has no universal health insurance because of political polarization and the number of people enjoying health insurance has shrunk sharply due to the epidemic. From March to May 2020, an estimated 27 million Americans have lost health insurance coverage in the pandemic. In Texas alone, the number of uninsured jumped from about 4.3 million to nearly 4.9 million, which means that three out of every 10 Texans are uninsured.
The digital divide aggravated educational inequality. In 2018, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without internet connection, and more than 7 million did not have computers at home, according to a report that analyzed census data for that year. The website of Politico reported on Sept. 23, 2020 that one in three students in Baltimore city, which is only an hour's drive from the U.S. Capitol, has no computers. One in three African American, Latino or American Indian families do not have home internet. Virtual learning became a mainstream education pattern during the epidemic. Compared with their wealthier peers, low-income and minority children are less likely to have appropriate technology and home environments for independent study because of their family backgrounds and therefore are at a disadvantage in e-learning, further aggravating the educational divide caused by poverty and racial inequality.