The pandemic misery index reveals a far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on American lives, especially on blacks and Latinos


With more than 30 million people infected and 550,000 dead, the US is among the most affected nations by the COVID-19 pandemic. From job loss to housing insecurity to mental distress, the social, psychological, and economic hardships caused by the pandemic are extensive and will likely outweigh the pandemic itself.

To better understand the breadth and depth of the impact of the pandemic on American lives, I worked with colleagues from the USC Dornsife Economic and Social Research Center develop a index of “pandemic miseryWe found that while few U.S. residents survived the pandemic unscathed, the difficulties are not evenly distributed among groups.

How bad it was: 80% experienced difficulties

The U.S. Pandemic Poverty Index uses data we have collected through Study on the understanding of coronavirus in America, the only nationally representative survey since the onset of the pandemic that tracked its impact on U.S. residents. This internet-based group of about 6,000 adults sought to quantify the severe difficulties people have experienced throughout the pandemic and assess the distribution of these experiences among the U.S. adult population.

The index is based on nine indicators of pandemic-related difficulties: financial insecurity, food insecurity, symptoms of moderate or severe psychological distress, symptoms of high stress, loss of employment since March 2020, experience of discrimination based on in COVID-19, lack of a housing payment, isolated or quarantined, and a diagnosis of COVID-19 or a perceived infection of COVID-19.

According to the index, 80% of American adults experienced at least one severe economic, psychological, or health difficulty between April 2020 and March 2021. Among them, 48% experienced financial insecurity, 29% faced food insecurity and 18% lost their housing payment.

Pandemic misery has diminished over time

Although few in the United States remain unharmed by the pandemic, our index shows that the prevalence of American adults with severe difficulties at a given time decreased by 22 percentage points, from 50% in April from 2020 to 28% in March 2021. Some of the largest declines occurred in the prevalence of financial insecurity, food insecurity, psychological distress, discrimination based on COVID-19, and experiences of isolation or quarantine.

For example, the proportion of adults facing food insecurity fell from 18% in April 2020 to 7% in March 2021. Similarly, the percentage of adults experiencing psychological distress from moderate to severe decreased from 16% in April 2020 to 10% in March 2021.

Blacks and Latinos are more likely to know someone who died

The pandemic exacerbated racial and ethnic disparities in the province Health i financial security. According to our index, racial and ethnic disparities appear largely unchanged one year after the pandemic.

While most adults in the United States have suffered in some way as a result of the pandemic, Latino and black residents have clearly been the hardest hit. Nearly 9 out of ten Latinos (89%) and 86% of blacks have suffered at least one severe difficulty since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to 80% of Asians and 76% of whites.

In addition, despite a declining prevalence of difficulties among ethnic and racial groups, Latino and black residents continue to face difficulties at a higher rate than white and Asian residents. For example, 63% of Latino residents reported one or more difficulties compared to 46% of white residents in April 2020, a difference of 27 percentage points. This gap persisted in March 2021 with 24 percentage points, with 34% of Latinos and 26% of whites reporting one or more difficulties.

The disparity between Asians and whites has largely disappeared throughout the pandemic due to a marked decline in the prevalence of difficulties among Asians. Although 50% of Asians reported one or more difficulties in April 2020, 23% reported difficulties in March 2021.

Asians were also much less likely to report a COVID-19 infection themselves or in their social circle. As of April 2020, 61% of Asians reported knowing at least one person infected with COVID-19, compared to 78% of Latinos, 77% of whites, and 70% of blacks. However, Asians have experienced discrimination based on COVID-19, that is, abuse because others think they might be infected with COVID-19. higher rate than other ethnic or racial groups.

In addition, we see large racial and ethnic disparities in the proportion of U.S. adults who have suffered the loss of someone due to COVID-19. Blacks and Latinos are almost twice as likely as whites and almost three times as likely as Asians to report the death of a friend or family member due to COVID-19 since April 2020.

Recovery will require sustained social and government support

While the proportion of American adults experiencing severe difficulties has declined markedly (from 5 out of 10 during the first days of the pandemic to slightly less than 3 out of 10 by the end of March 2021), one of the points key that allows us to take our index is that many continue to have social problems, psychological and economic distress. More than 2 in 10 adults in the United States, or 23%, reported experiencing financial insecurity, 7% reported food insecurity, and 6% reported losing a home payment by the end of March 2021. .

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The burden of pandemic misery also continues to fall disproportionately on communities of color. While our index shows that the gap between whites and Asians has narrowed, Latinos and blacks continue to face difficulties at higher rates and are likely to face a more difficult path to recovering from the pandemic. .

Taken together, these findings underscore the multidimensional nature of the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives. For many Americans, especially blacks and Latinos, the road to pandemic recovery will require more than an appointment with the vaccine or a timely stimulus check. Sustained financial assistance, food and housing assistance and mental health assistance will be required.

Kyla Thomas, Sociologist, USC Dornsife College of Arts, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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