POC Households Experiencing Hardships During COVID-19
Information provided by Child Trends:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of families experiencing hardships across the country has risen dramatically, with a disproportionate impact on Latino* and Black communities. Twenty-nine percent of Latino and 31 percent of Black households with children are experiencing three or more co-occurring economic and health-related hardships as a result of the pandemic, according to recent data. This is nearly twice the rate among Asian and White households with children (13% and 16%, respectively).
Disparities in experiencing multiple, co-occurring hardships were not fully explained by racial and ethnic differences in income in our analysis; Hispanic and Black low-income families also experienced multiple hardships at greater rates than Asian and White low-income families. These racial and ethnic disparities in the experience of multiple co-occurring hardships underline the structural inequities embedded in our nation’s institutions, as well as policies that continue to make it difficult for Latino and Black families to achieve sufficient economic stability to weather unexpected income disruption, such as a job loss or medical emergency.
For the analysis presented in this brief, we used nationally representative data from the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which has tracked the well-being of U.S. households during the pandemic, to examine seven types of hardships: unemployment, difficulty paying expenses, not being caught up on rent or mortgage, food insecurity, physical health problems, symptoms of anxiety or depression, and lack of health insurance. We analyzed these reports of hardships across Latino, Black, Asian, and White households with children—first across all income groups and then among households with low incomes, defined as those with self-reported pre-tax 2019 incomes of less than $50,000.
* We use the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” interchangeably throughout. Latinos may be of any race. We use the terms “White,” “Black,” and “Asian” to refer to non-Hispanic individuals.
Hispanic and Black individuals are more likely to have contracted, been hospitalized due to, and died from the coronavirus; to have lost a job; to have lost income; to have had trouble paying housing expenses; and to have experienced food insufficiency during the pandemic, compared to White individuals. Systemic barriers to higher education (in terms of access and affordability) for Latino and Black individuals mean that they often work in lower-wage jobs, which are less likely than higher-wage jobs to include a range of benefits, including paid sick leave and health insurance coverage—both essential resources during a global public health crisis.
Even among those with the same job, significant wage gaps rooted in discrimination mean that Hispanic and Black workers, on average, take home less money than White and Asian workers, making it more difficult to keep up with household expenses, including food and housing costs. Compounding these difficulties, Latino and Black families are less likely to have economic buffers during periods of hardship. This is primarily due to systemic factors, like discrimination in housing policies, that limit Black homeownership and to systems that perpetuate racial/ethnic gaps in wealth distribution, such as inheritances and university legacy policies, which overwhelmingly benefit those with White parents. Discrimination contributes to the tendency for Hispanic and Black individuals to receive less and lower-quality physical and mental health treatment and to experience greater barriers to accessing social safety net services.
Combined, these factors make it much more likely that Hispanic and Black families will experience not just a single, temporary stressor, but an accumulation of multiple hardships—particularly during a period of economic instability like the COVID-19 pandemic. While most children are resilient in the face of singular or time-limited stressors, especially when supported by sensitive and responsive caregivers, exposure to multiple, simultaneous, or long-lasting hardships may potentially overwhelm a child’s stress-response system. This, in turn, can impact their attention and regulation of emotion, with the potential for detrimental effects on their learning, behavior, and health. This accumulation of stressors can also overwhelm adults’ psychological resources, making government resources more important than ever—especially those that help parents remain economically afloat and able to financially and psychologically support their children in times of hardship.
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