More than 60 percent of households with children in the United States reported serious financial problems — including struggles to afford medical care, depletion of household savings and difficulty paying credit card and other debts — during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.
Black and Latino households with children bear the brunt of the hardships. Of the Latino households who responded, 86 percent reported these difficulties; in Black households, 66 percent reported them. In white households, the number hovers around 50 percent.
The immense differences were surprising, as they came after federal and state governments invested heavily in programs for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, said Robert Blendon, a director of the study behind the report and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“So much money was spent to put a cushion under households,” Dr. Blendon said, adding that because of this, “the expenditures should have lowered for everybody.” But, he said, “the numbers of people in trouble, that is the shock.”
The poll, conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 3,400 adults, 1,000 of whom were living with children under the age of 18, between July 1 and Aug. 3.
Now that some government measures to support households financially during the pandemic are waning, experts are concerned that the financial devastation could be worse than what the survey shows, said Julie Morita, the executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now, Dr. Morita said, “households are probably suffering just as much if not more,” leaving Black and Latino communities especially “unprotected.”
The survey highlights other challenges faced by households with children during the pandemic. Over a third of them reported “serious problems” keeping children’s education going. Six in 10 said that an adult in the home lost their job, was furloughed or had wages or hours cut. And in nine out of 10 households where someone was diagnosed with Covid-19, they faced “serious financial problems” in addition to difficulty caring for their children.
These responses, Dr. Blendon said, show that a high number of households — particularly Black and Latino ones — will face substantial long-term financial effects from the pandemic.
“It’s a very large number of people who can’t pay the basics,” Dr. Blendon said. “You have unbelievably vulnerable people over the next six months.”