During a time of economic crisis due to the pandemic, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, with 20.6 million Americans are out of jobs, leaving families struggling to afford the basic necessities. This has left a huge impact on the 47.5 million low-income families living in America, as reports show that the financial hardships caused by the pandemic has significantly impacted low-income and BIPOC families.
The instability caused by the pandemic can also have a lasting impact on a child’s development, as the reports state, “The COVID-19 crisis has caused significant disruption to children’s daily lives, and the findings in this brief underscore the many ways in which the pandemic poses risks to children’s health, well-being, and development.” With 23.5 million children living in low-income families in America, many of these children have experienced the devastating impacts of this pandemic as COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide.
“The COVID-19 crisis has caused significant disruption to children’s daily lives, and the findings in this brief underscore the many ways in which the pandemic poses risks to children’s health, well-being, and development.”Parents Are Struggling to Provide for Their Families during the Pandemic
Many low-income families have experienced food insecurity
According to surveys, around 25% of families have experienced food insecurity due to the pandemic, compared to 10.5% in 2019.
In addition, 13% of families couldn’t pay their entire utility bill, and 16% had to forgo medical care because of the cost. According to a survey by the University of Chicago, “In a set of questions, respondents were asked to report how worried they were on a scale 1 (not worried at all) to 10 (very worried) about a series of negative consequences due to the coronavirus. More than half of low-income respondents reported being worried about losing their job, compared to a less than 20 percent of higher income Americans,” which shows how the pandemic has exacerbated previous inequalities in income, healthcare, and other expenses.
In response to the pandemic, many states have implemented the stay-at-home order, which states that all people, with the exception of essential workers, are advised to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
Essential workers are defined as “essential workers are those who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continue critical infrastructure operations” by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and many of these workers include law enforcement and public safety, healthcare workers, food production workers, janitors, and more.
“In a set of questions, respondents were asked to report how worried they were on a scale 1 (not worried at all) to 10 (very worried) about a series of negative consequences due to the coronavirus. More than half of low-income respondents reported being worried about losing their job, compared to a less than 20 percent of higher income Americans.”A survey by the University of Chicago
However, many essential workers are people of color
However, around 75% of New York’s frontline workers are people of color, and in fact, “CMAP research shows that essential workers from disadvantaged communities—particularly people of color and those who live in low-income communities—are playing critical roles in providing healthcare and keeping the transportation, food supply, and other essentials systems functioning during this crisis.”
Many essential workers also rely on public transportation to travel to work, and with enclosed spaces and close contact with other riders, this makes it a suitable condition to spread COVID-19. The work environment and conditions faced by essential workers, many of which are people of color, contribute to the disproportionate amount of African-Americans and Hispanics affected by the pandemic.
With low-income people working at the front lines to support their family, this increases their risk of contracting COVID-19. Many researchers have noticed this too, as racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, possibly due to factors such as discrimination, occupation, environment, healthcare access, income, and housing. Despite the fact that African-Americans only make up 13% of the U.S. population, 21.8% of all COVID-19 cases were African-Americans, and the mortality rate for African-American is more than double than among Whites.
Pre-existing issues also play a role in the impact of COVID-19
According to the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C), people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, are at an increased risk for a severe case of COVID-19. Yet, low-income families and people of color are disproportionately affected by these illnesses, including obesity, which is especially common among people with the lowest levels of education and highest poverty rate.
Many low-income families have limited choices and budgets for food, so to maximize the amount of food that can be purchased, families often choose high-fat foods with lots of calories that are cheap and readily available compared to healthy, organic food. Eating unhealthy foods is well known to lead to obesity, and this can cause other illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and more. BIPOC are less likely to have health insurance, as Native Americans are 22% likely to be uninsured, compared to 8% of Whites, and the lack of accessible healthcare may decrease a low-income family’s ability to get quality care for COVID-19.
Poverty rates are also much higher among BIPOC than in Whites, as the poverty rate for African-Americans was 22%, whereas the poverty rate for Whites was 9%. This increases the likelihood of stuggling due to financial burdens and living in low-income communities, where denser living conditions may cause the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic has also left an educational divide
Yet, what does this mean for children living during the pandemic? As schools start to move online, low-income families may struggle to provide the necessary resources for online learning, and this exacerbates the gap in education caused by an existing divide in resources and opportunity. People with white-collared jobs are now able to work at home and educate their children, while low-income families may struggle with socioeconomic issues and work frontline jobs to support their family.
Additionally, 35% of low-income families don’t have high speed internet, which is essential for online learning and continuing education during the pandemic. As online learning goes on, this inequality will only continue to widen the education gap between low-income and affluent families, as many low-income students aren’t able to access class materials and continue learning.
With a combination of food insecurity, financial hardships, and challenges with online education, the stress caused by the pandemic can have long-term impacts on low-income children living during these difficult times. In fact, one in four parents with young children reported that someone in the household lost a job.
Studies show that economic hardship during childhood can have a negative impact on the child’s future, and further research has found a link between economic hardships and children’s educational outcomes. According to a paper published by the Urban Institute, “Ensuring children’s home environments remain as stable as possible and that their educational, nutritional, physical, and mental health needs are met will be paramount to helping families and communities weather the current crisis, and to minimizing adverse economic, health, and emotional effects on children.” With instability in children’s home environment due to the pandemic, this can lead to long-term consequences as low-income families are struggling to provide support for their family.
“Ensuring children’s home environments remain as stable as possible and that their educational, nutritional, physical, and mental health needs are met will be paramount to helping families and communities weather the current crisis, and to minimizing adverse economic, health, and emotional effects on children.”Parents Are Struggling to Provide for Their Families during the Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, existing divides between income levels and racial and ethnic minorities becomes increasingly apparent, as low-income families and BIPOC are more likely to be affected by the pandemic, whether that’s economic, health, or developmental impacts.
However, during a time of change and variability, policy makers need to help bridge the gap in current disparities to help achieve a better future of low-income and BIPOC families and help those who are struggling due to the pandemic.
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