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Best 2-in-1 laptops for beginners, experts, and everyone in between



Why buy a laptop and a tablet separately when you can get both in one device?

Best overall

The Dell Inspiron 14 5000

The Dell Inspiron 14 is meant for those who don’t need all the extra bells and whistles — just a reliable 2-in-1 laptop that will always get the job done.

All products featured here are independently selected by our editors and writers.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

While laptops and tablets are great on their own, sometimes you just need both — at once — without the hassle of having to carry around two devices all day. 

Enter: the hybrid laptop. A.K.A.: The 2-in-1 laptop, a device that you can convert from tablet to laptop and back again with ease.

Why would I want a 2-in-1 laptop?

Simply put, a 2-in-1 laptop allows you to have the best of both devices at your fingertips. You can use the tablet to draw and take hand-written notes with a stylus or you can use its touch-screen and gesture features for your day-to-day activities. But then, when you need more control or need to type something up, you can switch into laptop and keyboard mode. Best of all, these machines feature the computing power to run full-sized applications like Adobe Photoshop

What should you look for in a 2-in-1 laptop?

Regardless of what you intend to use your hybrid machine for, a good one should strike a great balance between portability and usability. In other words, you’ll want something that can do what you need it to without being too bulky, difficult to convert, or heavy. 

There are a lot of really good 2-in-1 laptops out there, but some of them have vastly different capabilities for vastly different kinds of people.

If you’re an artist or a designer, you’ll likely want a 2-in-1 laptop with a large screen for drawing or media viewing. If you’re on the go a lot, or if you’re a student, you might want something a little smaller that can easily fit it in your backpack. 

If you’re a big writer or use your device for work, you’ll likely want something that feels more like a laptop. But if you’re going to use the tablet more than a keyboard, maybe a tablet with a detachable keyboard is a better option for you. 

To help narrow down your search, we gathered together the very best devices that suit various needs. Read on to discover our top picks.

Fun and functional • Four flexible modes • Good sound system
Not for people who like a lot of features
Minimalists will love the affordable Dell Inspiron 14 — it’s a fun and functional device that doesn’t complicate anything.

1. The Dell Inspiron 14 5000

The Dell Inspiron 14 is meant for those who don’t need all the extra bells and whistles — just a reliable 2-in-1 laptop that will always get the job done.

  • Storage:
    512 GB
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    10th Generation Intel Core i5-10210U processor, Intel UHD graphics, SD media card reader
As tech gets more advanced, it also gets more complicated. Sometimes, you just don’t have time for all that noise, and you need something that’s a little more minimal — something that gets the job done, that’s easy to use, and won’t cause you any headaches.
The Dell Inspiron 14 offers a responsive performance and ample storage, as well as a more than sufficient display and sound system that’s great for entertainment viewing. It’s simple to chuck into a bag and bring with you anywhere, and is totally adaptable thanks to its four different modes — laptop for typing, tablet for drawing or writing, and tent or media modes for watching shows and movies. You can connect it to your TV via HDMI if you want, too. 

Includes a built-in S pen • Bright, colorful screen with energy-saving QLED display • Long battery life • Fun royal blue color
Fingerprint scanner is oddly placed • Can get warm after long use • Shortened shift key
This 2-in-1 laptop looks cool, is easy to use, and comes with a great stylus.

2. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15

This 2-in-1 laptop looks cool, is easy to use, and comes with a great stylus.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    Headphone jack, microSD card slot, two Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C ports. 15.6” display screen. Intel Iris Plus graphics and Intel 10th Generation processor Core i7

The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15 is a stand-out 2-in-1 laptop that will catch your eye immediately, thanks to its cool, royal blue exterior. This device comes with an amazingly accurate stylus that makes note-taking easy and will keep artists and professional artists happy. 
The device also has a QLED display, which not only saves energy but also maintains brightness without depleting the battery too fast. It runs quickly and allows you to easily multi-task with multiple programs (including photo and video-editing ones) and multiple browsers. However, it can get a little warm after a long day.
The device features an easy-to-use, 360-degree flip-and-fold design, allowing you to easily switch from laptop mode to presentation mode to tablet mode. It’s also. light enough to carry around.

It’s a workhorse that can handle any software • It has a lot of ports • Polished design
No thunderbolt 3 port • It doesn’t come with Lenovo Active Capacity Pens
A powerful 2-in-1 laptop for a mid-range price tag.

3. Lenovo Flex 2020

If you’re looking for a powerful, yet sleek 2-in-1 laptop, then look no further than the Lenovo Flex 2020 with its 14-inch touchscreen.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
If you’re looking for a powerful yet sleek 2-in-1 laptop, then look no further than the Lenovo Flex 2020 with its 14-inch touchscreen. The computer company didn’t cut many corners to get this machine to under $1000, but you’d be surprised what’s underneath the hood that makes it a powerful and graceful hybrid. 
It is very comfortable to rest your palms on as you type on its compact full keyboard. While its display is beautiful with full HD and a sharp resolution of 1920×1080, the laptop is also touch-based, as it transforms into a full Windows 10 tablet that supports the Lenovo Active Pen (not included).
The base model has a 10th Gen Intel 4-Core processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage space — though you can upgrade up to 20GB of RAM and 1TB of space if you have the extra dollars to spend. It has a microSD slot for additional storage and portability. While there is no Thunderbolt 3 port, it does feature a single USB Type-C port, along with two USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. It also comes with a backlit keyboard.

Sturdy and sleek design • Great touchpad and keyboard • Good battery life • Comes with a warranty • Great security • Lightweight
Audio quality isn’t great • Screen isn’t very bright • Pricey, especially if you pay for extra storage or memory
Thanks to its quick but secure sign-in feature, this 2-in-1 laptop is great for business pros who care about the security settings of their device.

4. Dell Latitude 740 2-in-1

Thanks to its quick sign-in feature, this 2-in-1 laptop is great for business pros.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    Intel Core i5/i7 Processors, Windows 10 Pro, 14 inch FHD Touch display screen

With a sleek metal chassis and excellent battery life, this 2-in-1 laptop is good for business. It wakes up automatically when it senses your presence so you can get to work quickly and efficiently. But don’t mistake this easy sign-in for a lapse in security: it has all the security and manageability you’d need for your business. The device wakes up only if it senses your smartphone nearby. 
This is a workhorse machine that is great for business: it has all the storage and memory you’ll need for the office. However, due to its high price and its lack of exciting features, it may not be the best choice for students or artists. 

Includes a fingerprint reader • Thin design with large HD touch screen • Two models available • Two colors • Lightweight
Fairly pricey for its features • Not the best battery life • No HDMI port • Some wobble while in laptop mode
This Chromebook doesn’t sacrifice high quality specs or performance.

5. Asus Chromebook Flip C436

A useful, powerful, and adaptable Chromebook.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    two USB-C ports, micro SD slot, illuminated keyboard, 14 inch touchscreen Full HD 1920 x 1080 4 sided NanoEdge Display, Intel Core i3/i5 Processor

We all know the stigma that Chromebooks are cheap and plastic laptops that only run the Google Chrome browser as its operating system. Well, that might have been the case for Chromebooks of the past, but now they’re marching into deluxe Chromebook territory with the Asus — without breaking the bank. 
Depending on your needs, you can either get it in silver with 8GB of RAM, a Core i3 Processor, and 128GB of storage for $799 or get the upgrade version in “Aerogel White,” which features 16GB RAM, 512 GB of storage, and a Core i5 processor. Both feature a 14-inch, full HD touch screen and a backlit keyboard. 
The device is simple to use and it’s easy to flip between laptop and tablet with minimal fuss. That said, the hinges do wobble a little if you tap the display in laptop mode. 

Really good build • Amazing and high quality display good enough for gaming • Long battery life
Expensive • Keyboard takes some time to get used to • No USB-A ports
The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is a sexy little machine that has the power of a gaming laptop, but in a compact and thin presentation.

6. Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS is one of the few hybrids that can deliver high working performance, as well as gaming chops in a trusty 2-in-1.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    10th Generation Intel Core i7 processor and Intel Iris Plus Graphics. Thunderbolt 3 port, headphone/microphone combo jack, microSD card reader. FHD 13.4 inch InfinityEdge Touch Display touch screen

Often, 2-in-1 hybrid machines have to give up power to make it more easily convert from a laptop into a tablet. However, the Dell XPS is one of the few hybrids that can deliver high working performance, as well as gaming chops in a trusty 2-in-1. 
It’s armed with a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor and great graphics for high speed gaming for most modern titles. It’s enhanced with sharp detail on its FHD 1920 x 1200 “Infinity Edge” touch screen display.
On top of that, the machine has an amazing battery life that can provide up to a whopping 16 hours of usability. However, because of its performance and power, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 gets warm, even if its fans are accelerating at full speed. 
It has a very sleek and sexy design, although some might feel it’s a bit ho-hum at this price point. While the hybrid delivers the best of both worlds as a traditional laptop and a powerful 15-inch tablet running Windows 10 all in a small and thin package, it doesn’t come cheap. The Dell XPS 2-in-1 is priced in the over $1,300 area, which is getting into MacBook territory. However, with that hefty price tag, the 2-in-1 gives you more power and performance than any MacBook on the market.

Lightweight • Amazingly good battery life • Clear display • Implemented kickstand and fast processor • Available in two colors
Signature Type Cover • Surface Pen and Surface Arc Mouse separately • Only 2 ports
Lightweight and versatile, the Surface Pro 7 has a crystal clear display that’s perfect for artists on the go.

7. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Lightweight and versatile, the Surface Pro 7 has a crystal clear display that’s perfect for artists on the go.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    USB-C and USB-A ports, Platinum Intel Core i5/i7, 2 colors, Windows 10 Home installed

Ever since Microsoft started to make their own laptops and tablets, the computer company has been known for packing tons of high end and powerful specifications into their machines, putting them on par with other PC makers like Dell and HP. The Surface Pro 7 is definitely no exception to that with its fast processing power, all-day battery life, and lightweight versatility. 
The base model starts around $749.99, but if you have more money to spend, you can configure it to your needs to give yourself more processing power, RAM, and storage space. Unfortunately, you do have to buy the keyboard separately, which also adds to the price. 
This hybrid laptop is the best way to experience Windows 10, as both a traditional laptop and a powerful tablet. The touch display is brilliant for drawing with the Surface Pen, though the stylus is not included. The sleek design makes it a pleasure to hold as a tablet, as the screen can be completely detached. It’s also incredibly lightweight, starting at just 1.70lbs for the base model. 
The Surface Pro 7 is a brilliant and exceptional 2-in-1 laptop with no real compromises. It’s a premium convertible with a premium experience. 

Sliding shutter on webcam • Good battery life • Thin and relatively lightweight • More affordable than others on this list • Available in two sizes
No thunderbolt 3 • Reflections show up on the screen outside • Can’t upgrade the memory once purchased • Stylus pen has to be purchased separately
This thin, 3-pound 2-in-1 laptop has a long battery life and works great for work or school.

8. Lenovo Yoga C740

A great mid-range 2-in-1 laptop that makes a good choice for students and professionals alike.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    USB-C, Headphone Jack, 14” Full HD 10-point multitouch screen, Intel Core i5/i7, Intel UHD Graphics, Built-in Alexa, Windows 10 Home

Available in two sizes — 14 and 15.6-inch sizes — the Lenovo Yoga is a solid mid-range 2-in-1 laptop. The display is bright and the colors are bold, though you might have to deal with reflections if you’re working outside. It features Amazon Alexa built-in and has far-field mics. 
It only weighs about 3 pounds, so it’s light enough to carry around. It comes with decent battery life and though the memory is soldered on, you can pay for an upgraded version with additional memory — a good choice if you multitask a lot. The display works with a stylus, though you’ll need to buy one separately. 

It comes with a stylus • 4K display is immaculate • Good for gaming
The touchpad and keyboard are not the best • Battery life could be longer • The hinges leave much to be desired
The HP Spectre x360 is a good convertible laptop that delivers great performance and amazing power packaged in a trusty and lightweight 2-in-1.

9. HP Spectre x360

This blazing fast 2-in-1 laptop doesn’t skimp on high end specifications that are housed inside of a sleek and ultrathin package.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    12 inch screen, one USB 3.0, two USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), USB 3 slot, headphone/microphone combo. Camera with digital microphone and webcam

Armed with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, the HP Spectre x360 is a blazing fast 2-in-1 laptop that doesn’t skimp on high end specifications that are housed inside of a sleek and ultrathin package that weighs less than three pounds. 
It’s a flagship machine from HP that’s ready to stream 4K, as well as run your favorite games without breaking a sweat, thanks to its Intel UHD Graphics 620 and crisp UHD 4K IPS touch panel display in its high end model. It even comes with the HP Pen for sketching and quick note-taking.
This laptop hybrid is also one of the few on this list that features a fingerprint sensor for added security, plus it has a super long battery life of about 16.5 hours. It really seems HP tried to pack as many features as it could inside of this machine to justify its price point. 
However, that still does translate into some shortcomings, such as its hinges are a bit wobbly in kiosk mode, while its trackpad could’ve been beefed up considering the power it’s showcasing inside. 

Lightweight • It’s well designed and sleek
Battery charges with proprietary adaptor instead of USB-C • No Thunderbolt 3 port • It’s a fingerprint magnet
If you’re looking for a 2-in-1 that’s powerful enough for gaming, yet light enough to be compact, then the Asus ZenBook Flip 14 is the convertible laptop for you.

10. Asus Zenbook Flip 14

A mighty powerful hybrid for students.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    two USB 3.0, one USB-C, HDMI, one SD card slot, 14-inch FHD 1,920 x 1,080 touch panel display, Intel Core i5/i7, Nvidia GeForce MX150, Intel UHD Graphics 620
The Asus Zenbook 14 is a mighty powerful hybrid. It has the Intel Core i5 processor and NVIDIA GeForce MX150 2GB graphics, which makes it great for gaming and other intense workloads. 
However, it does seem that Asus cut corners when it comes to ports, as there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support and the display is lacking a 4K option. So the trade-off is powerful internals versus brilliant display. But despite its limitations, the Asus Zenbook 14 is a good option for students who want something more powerful than a Chromebook or mid-range laptop. 
While the laptop’s display is standard full HD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, it’s also a fingerprint magnet, which is why Asus includes a stylus. Use it to take advantage of some 1,000 levels of pressure and keep your screen smudge free. The Zenbook 14’s battery life is also impressive, with Asus boasting 13 hours of all-day usage on a single charge, while its sturdy hinge transforms it from a traditional laptop into a giant 14-inch tablet running Windows 10. Overall, it’s a really good choice for students with a heavy workload and durable, yet lightweight all-metal build quality. 

It has great audio and video quality • Clear, sharp and very responsive display • Powerful and ultra portable
Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are not included • For Apple users only
If you are an Apple user and you want a great 2-in-1, the iPad Pro is the one for you. Although the Smart Keyboard and pencil come at an additional cost, it’s the best hybrid available to those who don’t want to leave the Apple ecosystem for Windows or Chrome OS.

11. Apple iPad Pro

The iPad Pro features a crystal clear display and a high quality camera.

  • Storage:
    128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    one USB-C port, 11 or 12.9 inch liquid retina display, A12Z Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture neural engine embedded M12 coprocessor, camera

When Apple introduced the iPad Pro in 2015, they didn’t just release a bigger version of one of their most popular devices. The tech company re-built the iPad from the ground up and focused their attention on the needs of professionals and creatives alike. 
This fast 2-in-1 device is available in two all-screen, Liquid Retina display sizes: 11-inch and 12.9-inch. Both come with Promotion and True Tone to deliver clear, color-accuracy. Both come with an advanced 12 MP wide camera and a new 10 MP ultra wide camera to capture photographs and 4K video. It uses iPadOS as an operating system, which comes with powerful features and built-in apps. 
Although it only features one port, a USB-C for charging, it can be used for video output. It also has four speaker audio and five studio-quality microphones for calls, video recording, and audio recording. Apple relies on iCloud and other online cloud solutions for additional storage and file transfers, but each model comes in four storage options, ranging from 128GB to 1TB. 
The iPad Pro can be a smart keyboard which doubles as a cover, a pencil, and trackpad. The keyboard simply locks into place with magnets, while the pencil effortlessly glides across the brilliant display like a pencil on top of paper. All of these accessories are sold separately though.
The Apple ecosystem is a full-time commitment with a learning curve if you’re a Windows or Chrome OS user coming to it for the first time. But once you’re in, you’ll never use another computer or mobile device the same way again.

Thin and light • Great for travel • High-res PixelSense display • Low price
Stylus and keyboard not included unless you purchase a bundle
The smallest and lightest Microsoft Surface available, the Surface Go 2 is a great option for anyone with an unpredictable day-to-day.

12. Microsoft Surface Go 2

A small and light laptop-tablet combo that’ll adapt to on-the-move lifestyles with no gimmicks.

  • Storage:
    68GB or 128GB
  • Memory:
    4GB or 8GB
  • Features:
    10.5” PixelSense display, USB Type C port, fast-charging Surface Cover port microSDXC, 3.5 mm headphone jack, front- and rear-facing cameras, Intel Pentinum Gold 4425Y processor

In need of some personal tech that can adapt to an unpredictable way of life?
Enter the Microsoft Surface Go 2 — the smallest, lightest iteration of Microsoft’s iconic 2-in-1 laptop and tablet combo. It’s made for those whose office may change depending on the day, who call an airport their second home, or who just don’t want to be held down by some clunky device. 
Its small size still packs a punch, though — it has a high-resolution PixelSense touchscreen display that’ll show anything you do in its best light, runs the fan-favorite Windows 10 effortlessly, has two cameras, a 1.6 GHz Pentium processor, and a nine-hour battery that will get you all the way from daytime to down time. 
It also has built-in WiFi, plus optional LTE Advanced for hassle-free connectivity in areas with unsecured public, slow, or no WiFi. Best of all, it has a built-in kickstand cover and it pairs with a stylus and type keyboard cover for optimal use. 

Beautiful display • Powerful processor • Impressive color and clarity
Fingerprints • So many fingerprints
The HP Envy X360 has a lot of great features that rival more expensive 2-in-1 laptops, but the high-res display is the reason to pick one up.

13. HP Envy X360

A beautiful display at a decent price tag, along with a slew of other nice quality-of-life features that can stand up to pricier devices.

  • Storage:
    256GB or 512GB
  • Memory:
    8GB or 12 GB
  • Features:
    15.6 or 17.3 inch screen, AMD quad-core Ryzen or Intel 10th Generation Core processors, MD Radeon or Intel UHD graphics, full HD display, USB-C, Thunderbolt and HDMI ports, headphone/microphone combo jacks, backlit keyboard, Amazon Alexa built-in

If you enjoy looking at pretty colors and don’t feel like forking over your entire life savings, the HP Envy X360 may be the best 2-in-1 laptop for you. In other words, it’s got a really nice display at a fair price, which isn’t always easy to find. 
Available with 5.6-inch or 17.3-inch full HD touchscreen displays, the HP Envy X360 boasts impressive color and clarity, rivaling laptop-tablets that cost way above its price range. It has all the power you need thanks to its graphics and high-powered processor options.
Windows 10 fans will be happy with the HP’s operating system of choice, and fans of tech in general will be pleased with the Envy’s expanded memory, battery life, Bluetooth capability, and gorgeous backlit keyboard. It even has a bevy of ports, including USB-C, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Thunderbolt.
The HP Envy X360 is not a bad option for those who don’t want to spring for a top-shelf iPad or Microsoft Surface.

360-degree hinge • Incredibly high resolution screen • Great storage and processor • Comes with Active Pen 2 Stylus
Stylus holder is plastic and a little flimsy
The world-class hinge allows this device to flex at a full 360-degrees.

14. Lenovo Yoga C940

The best of both worlds: Slim and light in tablet mode and a solid machine when used as a traditional laptop.

  • Storage:
  • Memory:
  • Features:
    Intel 10th Generation Core i7 Processor, Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 1920 x 1080 Full HD or 3480 x 2160 4K Screen resolution, Windows 10 operating system

If you’re looking for a lightweight and sleek convertible laptop, then look no further than the Lenovo Yoga C940. Its beautiful and functional 2-in-1 design was built with professionals in mind with its powerful Intel Core i7, elegant Intel Iris Plus graphics, and 12GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB). It’s strong enough for day-to-day tasks, while also attractive enough to make co-workers jealous.
With this device, you’ll get something that’s slim and light when in tablet mode, as well as a solid workhorse when used as a traditional laptop. Thanks to the machine’s trusty 360-degree hinge, it can flex in almost any position, while still giving you the support you need, so it won’t wobble when in kiosk mode like other convertibles.
The Lenovo Yoga 940 can detect over 4,000 levels of pressure and is perfectly compatible with the computer company’s Active Pen 2 Stylus, which is happily included. The convertible is one of the highest rated for its ease of drawing and note-taking, while it’s simply effortless to use like a pen on paper. However, the stylus’ plastic holder feels somewhat cheap and flimsy. 


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The Trump campaign celebrated a growth record that Democrats downplayed.



The White House celebrated economic growth numbers for the third quarter released on Thursday, even as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign sought to throw cold water on the report — the last major data release leading up to the Nov. 3 election — and warned that the economic recovery was losing steam.

The economy grew at a record pace last quarter, but the upswing was a partial bounce-back after an enormous decline and left the economy smaller than it was before the pandemic. The White House took no notice of those glum caveats.

“This record economic growth is absolute validation of President Trump’s policies, which create jobs and opportunities for Americans in every corner of the country,” Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement, highlighting a rebound of 33.1 percent at an annualized rate. Mr. Trump heralded the data on Twitter, posting that he was “so glad” that the number had come out before Election Day.

The annualized rate that the White House emphasized extrapolates growth numbers as if the current pace held up for a year, and risks overstating big swings. Because the economy’s growth has been so volatile amid the pandemic, economists have urged focusing on quarterly numbers.

Those showed a 7.4 percent gain in the third quarter. That rebound, by far the biggest since reliable statistics began after World War II, still leaves the economy short of its pre-pandemic levels. The pace of recovery has also slowed, and now coronavirus cases are rising again across much of the United States, raising the prospect of further pullback.

“The recovery is stalling out, thanks to Trump’s refusal to have a serious plan to deal with Covid or to pass a new economic relief plan for workers, small businesses and communities,” Mr. Biden’s campaign said in a release ahead of Thursday’s report. The rebound was widely expected, and the campaign characterized it as “a partial return from a catastrophic hit.”

Economists have warned that the recovery could face serious roadblocks ahead. Temporary measures meant to shore up households and businesses — including unemployment insurance supplements and forgivable loans — have run dry. Swaths of the service sector remain shut down as the virus continues to spread, and job losses that were temporary are increasingly turning permanent.

“With coronavirus infections hitting a record high in recent days and any additional fiscal stimulus unlikely to arrive until, at the earliest, the start of next year, further progress will be much slower,” Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note following the report.


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Black and Hispanic workers, especially women, lag in the U.S. economic recovery.



The surge in economic output in the third quarter set a record, but the recovery isn’t reaching everyone.

Economists have long warned that aggregate statistics like gross domestic product can obscure important differences beneath the surface. In the aftermath of the last recession, for example, G.D.P. returned to its previous level in early 2011, even as poverty rates remained high and the unemployment rate for Black Americans was above 15 percent.

Aggregate statistics could be even more misleading during the current crisis. The job losses in the initial months of the pandemic disproportionately struck low-wage service workers, many of them Black and Hispanic women. Service-sector jobs have been slow to return, while school closings are keeping many parents, especially mothers, from returning to work. Nearly half a million Hispanic women have left the labor force over the last three months.

“If we’re thinking that the economy is recovering completely and uniformly, that is simply not the case,” said Michelle Holder, an economist at John Jay College in New York. “This rebound is unevenly distributed along racial and gender lines.”

The G.D.P. report released Thursday doesn’t break down the data by race, sex or income. But other sources make the disparities clear. A pair of studies by researchers at the Urban Institute released this week found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to have lost jobs or income since March, and were twice as likely as white adults to experience food insecurity in September.

The financial impact of the pandemic hit many of the families that were least able to afford it, even as white-collar workers were largely spared, said Michael Karpman, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the studies’ authors.

“A lot of people who were already in a precarious position before the pandemic are now in worse shape, whereas people who were better off have generally been faring better financially,” he said.

Federal relief programs, such as expanded unemployment benefits, helped offset the damage for many families in the first months of the pandemic. But those programs have mostly ended, and talks to revive them have stalled in Washington. With virus cases surging in much of the country, Mr. Karpman warned, the economic toll could increase.

“There could be a lot more hardship coming up this winter if there’s not more relief from Congress, with the impact falling disproportionately on Black and Hispanic workers and their families,” he said.


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Ant Challenged Beijing and Prospered. Now It Toes the Line.



As Jack Ma of Alibaba helped turn China into the world’s biggest e-commerce market over the past two decades, he was also vowing to pull off a more audacious transformation.

“If the banks don’t change, we’ll change the banks,” he said in 2008, decrying how hard it was for small businesses in China to borrow from government-run lenders.

“The financial industry needs disrupters,” he told People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, a few years later. His goal, he said, was to make banks and other state-owned enterprises “feel unwell.”

The scope of Mr. Ma’s success is becoming clearer. The vehicle for his financial-technology ambitions, an Alibaba spinoff called Ant Group, is preparing for the largest initial public offering on record. Ant is set to raise $34 billion by selling its shares to the public in Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to stock exchange documents released on Monday. After the listing, Ant would be worth around $310 billion, much more than many global banks.

The company is going public not as a scrappy upstart, but as a leviathan deeply dependent on the good will of the government Mr. Ma once relished prodding.

More than 730 million people use Ant’s Alipay app every month to pay for lunch, invest their savings and shop on credit. Yet Alipay’s size and importance have made it an inevitable target for China’s regulators, which have already brought its business to heel in certain areas.

These days, Ant talks mostly about creating partnerships with big banks, not disrupting or supplanting them. Several government-owned funds and institutions are Ant shareholders and stand to profit handsomely from the public offering.

The question now is how much higher Ant can fly without provoking the Chinese authorities into clipping its wings further.

Excitable investors see Ant as a buzzy internet innovator. The risk is that it becomes more like a heavily regulated “financial digital utility,” said Fraser Howie, the co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise.”

“Utility stocks, as far as I remember, were not the ones to be seen as the most exciting,” Mr. Howie said.

Ant declined to comment, citing the quiet period demanded by regulators before its share sale.

The company has played give-and-take with Beijing for years. As smartphone payments became ubiquitous in China, Ant found itself managing huge piles of money in Alipay users’ virtual wallets. The central bank made it park those funds in special accounts where they would earn minimal interest.

After people piled into an easy-to-use investment fund inside Alipay, the government forced the fund to shed risk and lower returns. Regulators curbed a plan to use Alipay data as the basis for a credit-scoring system akin to Americans’ FICO scores.

China’s Supreme Court this summer capped interest rates for consumer loans, though it was unclear how the ceiling would apply to Ant. The central bank is preparing a new virtual currency that could compete against Alipay and another digital wallet, the messaging app WeChat, as an everyday payment tool.

Ant has learned ways of keeping the authorities on its side. Mr. Ma once boasted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, about never taking money from the Chinese government. Today, funds associated with China’s social security system, its sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned life insurance company and the national postal carrier hold stakes in Ant. The I.P.O. is likely to increase the value of their holdings considerably.

“That’s how the state gets its payoff,” Mr. Howie said. With Ant, he said, “the line between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise is highly, highly blurred.”

China, in less than two generations, went from having a state-planned financial system to being at the global vanguard of internet finance, with trillions of dollars in transactions being made on mobile devices each year. Alipay had a lot to do with it.

Alibaba created the service in the early 2000s to hold payments for online purchases in escrow. Its broader usefulness quickly became clear in a country that mostly missed out on the credit card era. Features were added and users piled in. It became impossible for regulators and banks not to see the app as a threat.

ImageAnt Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Credit…Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

A big test came when Ant began making an offer to Alipay users: Park your money in a section of the app called Yu’ebao, which means “leftover treasure,” and we will pay you more than the low rates fixed by the government at banks.

People could invest as much or as little as they wanted, making them feel like they were putting their pocket change to use. Yu’ebao was a hit, becoming one of the world’s largest money market funds.

The banks were terrified. One commentator for a state broadcaster called the fund a “vampire” and a “parasite.”

Still, “all the main regulators remained unanimous in saying that this was a positive thing for the Chinese financial system,” said Martin Chorzempa, a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“If you can’t actually reform the banks,” Mr. Chorzempa said, “you can inject more competition.”

But then came worries about shadowy, unregulated corners of finance and the dangers they posed to the wider economy. Today, Chinese regulators are tightening supervision of financial holding companies, Ant included. Beijing has kept close watch on the financial instruments that small lenders create out of their consumer loans and sell to investors. Such securities help Ant fund some of its lending. But they also amplify the blowup if too many of those loans aren’t repaid.

“Those kinds of derivative products are something the government is really concerned about,” said Tian X. Hou, founder of the research firm TH Data Capital. Given Ant’s size, she said, “the government should be concerned.”

The broader worry for China is about growing levels of household debt. Beijing wants to cultivate a consumer economy, but excessive borrowing could eventually weigh on people’s spending power. The names of two of Alipay’s popular credit functions, Huabei and Jiebei, are jaunty invitations to spend and borrow.

Huang Ling, 22, started using Huabei when she was in high school. At the time, she didn’t qualify for a credit card. With Huabei’s help, she bought a drone, a scooter, a laptop and more.

The credit line made her feel rich. It also made her realize that if she actually wanted to be rich, she had to get busy.

“Living beyond my means forced me to work harder,” Ms. Huang said.

First, she opened a clothing shop in her hometown, Nanchang, in southeastern China. Then she started an advertising company in the inland metropolis of Chongqing. When the business needed cash, she borrowed from Jiebei.

Online shopping became a way to soothe daily anxieties, and Ms. Huang sometimes racked up thousands of dollars in Huabei bills, which only made her even more anxious. When the pandemic slammed her business, she started falling behind on her payments. That cast her into a deep depression.

Finally, early this month, with her parents’ help, she paid off her debts and closed her Huabei and Jiebei accounts. She felt “elated,” she said.

China’s recent troubles with freewheeling online loan platforms have put the government under pressure to protect ordinary borrowers.

Ant is helped by the fact that its business lines up with many of the Chinese leadership’s priorities: encouraging entrepreneurship and financial inclusion, and expanding the middle class. This year, the company helped the eastern city of Hangzhou, where it is based, set up an early version of the government’s app-based system for dictating coronavirus quarantines.

Such coziness is bound to raise hackles overseas. In Washington, Chinese tech companies that are seen as close to the government are radioactive.

In January 2017, Eric Jing, then Ant’s chief executive, said the company aimed to be serving two billion users worldwide within a decade. Shortly after, Ant announced that it was acquiring the money transfer company MoneyGram to increase its U.S. footprint. By the following January, the deal was dead, thwarted by data security concerns.

More recently, top officials in the Trump administration have discussed whether to place Ant Group on the so-called entity list, which prohibits foreign companies from purchasing American products. Officials from the State Department have suggested that an interagency committee, which also includes officials from the departments of defense, commerce and energy, review Ant for the potential entity listing, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Ant does not talk much anymore about expanding in the United States.

Ana Swanson contributed reporting.


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