High-income black and Hispanic workers have more debt than their white colleagues

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WASHINGTON – November 18, 2021 – A new report based on the annual “Workplace Well-Being Survey” (WWS), conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald Research, finds black and Hispanic workers more likely to be financially struggling with debt and less able to handle an emergency or sudden large expense than their white counterparts. Additionally, while ratings of work-life balance improve with income, black and Hispanic workers in households earning $ 75,000 per year or more are less satisfied with work-life balance in the country. their organizations than their white counterparts and are less likely than white workers to give high marks to their employers’ efforts to improve various aspects of their well-being.

WWS was conducted for its second year in 2021 to measure the attitudes of American workers towards issues related to benefits in the workplace. WWS 2021 included an oversample of black and Hispanic workers in order to better understand the unique workplace wellness needs of these workers and to explore and identify potential differences in attitudes, experiences and behaviors related to good. -be at work. Given the economic differences in these segments of workers, this article takes a closer look at the combination of race / ethnicity and income.

The topic note, “Making Workplace Wellness Programs Fit the Needs of Black and Hispanic Workers: Findings from the 2021 Workplace Wellness Survey,” reveals that when race / ethnicity differences are examined by income, most of the reported differences between black, Hispanic and white workers are minimal at lower income levels when it comes to perceptions of debt, stress about financial future, confidence about employee benefit decisions, balance work-life, maintaining a good balance between work and caregiving responsibilities, and employers’ efforts to improve various aspects of the worker’s well-being.

“Our latest research begs the question: What can employers do to improve the financial well-being and work-life balance of workers, and Black and Hispanic workers in particular? Our results show that the flexibility to use paid time off and more benefits and resources to help with emotional well-being / mental health would be the most valuable improvements employers could make to benefit programs and offerings. social, ”said Lisa Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald Research. , and co-author of the report. “In the future, employers may seek to bridge the gap between awareness and participation in wellness programs to improve financial and emotional stress, increase satisfaction with benefits of employees and increase overall job satisfaction. This could include communicating and delivering these programs differently, redesigning the approach or format, and focusing on building trust.

More income, more disparities

There are profound differences between the experience of high-income black and Hispanic workers with family incomes of $ 75,000 or more, and that of their white counterparts. Black and Hispanic workers are more likely to view debt as a problem for their household than white workers. These black and Hispanic workers are also less likely than white workers to agree that they have enough savings to deal with an emergency or sudden large expense, and report being less prepared to deal with a variety of financial complications than workers. blanks, including an unexpected expense of $ 500 or $ 5,000.

Black and Hispanic workers are also less likely to be satisfied with various aspects of their job. Disparities in satisfaction correlate with differences in workers’ confidence in making informed decisions about benefits. These differences in satisfaction by race / ethnicity are more pronounced in higher income groups.

High-income black and Hispanic workers are also less likely than white workers to give top marks to their employers’ efforts to improve various aspects of worker well-being in the physical, emotional / mental and financial dimensions. While workers generally rate work-life balance positively, high-income black and Hispanic workers are generally less likely than white workers to say that the work-life balance in their business is excellent.

“Overall, the results highlight the need for employers to better tailor workplace wellness programs to the specific needs of workers at different income levels and from different racial / ethnic backgrounds,” said Paul Fronstin, director of health research at EBRI. and Education Program, and co-author of the report. “At lower to moderate income levels, financial challenges are pervasive. However, we should challenge ourselves to better understand why black and Hispanic workers at the highest income level have quite different experiences than white workers with similar incomes. By taking a more nuanced approach, employers have the opportunity to create program offerings and design communication strategies that more effectively support a diverse workforce. While these employer-sponsored programs do not completely resolve the racial / ethnic wealth gap, they can help level the playing field over time.

“Making Workplace Wellbeing Programs Fit for the Needs of Black and Hispanic Workers: Results from the 2021 Workplace Wellbeing Survey” is available at ebri.org/bh. The survey was underwritten by AARP, Cigna, Fidelity, Lincoln Financial, Mercer, Morgan Stanley, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), Voya Financial, Unum and Wells Fargo.

About the Workplace Wellness Survey (WWS):

The well-being at work survey (WWS) is conducted annually by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research. The 2021 survey of 2,016 American workers was conducted online from July 7 to July 27, 2021. All respondents are between the ages of 21 and 64. The survey consists of a national sample of 1,000 workers and an oversample of 503 completed surveys among black workers and 513 completed surveys among Hispanic workers, bringing the total to 587 black respondents and 662 Hispanic respondents. .

Data are weighted according to age, race, sex and income. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level for the total sample of current workers in this study (n = 2,016) is approximately plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Please note that percentages in figures may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding and / or missing categories. Any change in trend or difference in subgroups noted in the text is statistically significant; if no change in trend is noted, there are no significant differences. The income differences noted in the text are simple correlations within the same income group. Only some of these differences can be found in the figures.


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