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Who is hardest hit by a pandemic? Racial disparities in COVID-19 hardship in the U.S

JungHo Park

International Journal of Urban Sciences, 2021, vol. 25, issue 2, 149-177

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Americans’ lives and livelihoods from a wide range of socioeconomic and public health perspectives, some racial/ethnic groups more profoundly than others. Beyond the statistics of confirmed cases and deaths, however, we do not have sufficient evidence to explain the racial disparity in pandemic hardships. By using the Household Pulse Survey, a nationally representative data timely deployed by the U.S. Census Bureau, this paper measures and examines five dimensions of pandemic hardships – food insufficiency, employment income loss, housing instability, health problem, and school closure – and their racial disparities. This paper finds a pervasive racial disparity across those individual hardships as well as compounded types of hardships (e.g. income loss with food insufficiency at the same time), with commonly higher odds of experiencing hardship for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites. The effects of small business closures and reopening policy are unequal across racial/ethnic groups, implying that non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics may be left behind the benefits from state reopening and socioeconomic recovery. These findings can shed new light on the role of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics as well as statewide contextual variables in explaining racial disparities in the pandemic hardships and suggest new possibilities for COVID-19 research.Highlights The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Americans’ lives from a wide range of socioeconomic and public health perspectivesRisk of experiencing pandemic hardships – food insufficiency, employment income loss, housing instability, health problem, and school closure – is higher for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics than non-Hispanic whitesPervasive racial disparities exist across compounded types of hardships, including income loss with food insufficiency at the same timeThe effects of small business closures and reopening policy are unequal across racial/ethnic groupsNon-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics may be left behind the socioeconomic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1080/12265934.2021.1877566

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