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Work and the Coronavirus

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Helping people understand how COVID-19 affects work and employment by sharing insights and help from ILR's workplace experts.

Research Identifies Workers Who Should be First for Vaccine

Essential workers moving carts of beverages in a warehouse

Professor Fran Blau is part of a research team that has identified especially vulnerable “frontline” workers who should be considered first among essential workers for receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

Food deliverers, cashiers, emergency medical technicians and others who face greater risk of contracting the virus because they work face to face with others should be prioritized if vaccine supplies run short, according to the analysis, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The research, synopsized here, was cited in “The New York Times.” 

“These are a subset of essential workers who, given the nature of their jobs, must provide their labor in person. Prioritizing them makes sense given the heightened risk that they face,” according to Blau, who conducted the research with 2019 ILR Visiting Scholar Josefine Koebe and Cornell Policy Analysis and Management graduate Pamela Meyerhofer. 

The researchers introduced their paper with this: “Identifying essential and frontline workers and understanding their characteristics is useful for policymakers and researchers in targeting social insurance and safety net policies in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We develop a working definition that may inform additional research and policy discussion and provide data on the demographic and labor market composition of these workers.”

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