COVID-19 has taken a financial toll on Hispanics and African-Americans more than white people, multiple studies show

The economic instability due to the coronavirus outbreak affects everyone, but recent surveys by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that in certain key areas, the health and financial crisis has affected black and Hispanic Americans more than others.[1]

The surveys found notable racial and ethnic differences in factors such as job loss, pay cuts and struggles to pay the bills. Additionally, a recent report from the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C., found that more than 45% of Hispanic and black adults reported “serious challenges” paying for housing, utilities, food, and health care.[2]

Hispanic adults hit hardest by job loss

Around 61% of Hispanic Americans and 44% of black Americans – compared with 38% of white adults – reported in April that they or another person in their household lost a job or wages due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Pew Research Center survey.

The Urban Institute report found that while 4 in 10 (non-elderly) adults reported lost jobs, decreased work hours, or loss of income during the COVID-19 outbreak, job and income losses are “more prevalent among the families of low-income and Hispanic adults.”

Higher numbers of low-income workers faced job losses

According to the Urban Institute report, more than half (51%) of adults in families with incomes at or below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or between 100% to 200% of the FPL reported in March and April that someone in their family lost a job, work hours or wages due to the COVID-19 crisis.[3] At the same time, less than a third (32%) at or above 400% of the poverty level reported job or income losses.

“These income-related and racial/ethnic disparities likely reflect differences in the workforces of industries most affected by the recession and differences in workers’ abilities to do their jobs from home,” says the report.

Black and Hispanic workers paid less than whites

For every dollar earned by the median white family, black and Hispanic families earn only around 70 cents, according to a report by JPMorgan Institute.[4]

According to the same report, racial gaps in take-home income are even larger among higher-earning families, and black women face the greatest gap in take-home income.

Material hardships more prevalent for minorities during COVID-19 outbreak

Around 45% of black respondents to the Urban Institute’s survey reported they had experienced a material hardship such as food insecurity (34%), inability to pay all utility bills (20%) or not being able to pay rent or mortgage payment (15%) due to the pandemic.

Hispanic respondents struggled with food insecurity (33%), not enough money to pay utility bills (16%), and the inability to make full rent or mortgage payment (15%). The percentages of white adults reporting material hardships lower, with 6% who reported food insecurity, 7% who said they couldn’t pay their full utility bills, and 5% who were unable to pay the rent or mortgage.

Many Americans have no emergency reserves

Around 73% of black adults and 70% of Hispanic adults surveyed by Pew Research Center said they don’t have enough emergency funds to cover three months of expenses. Nearly half (47%) of white adults surveyed also said they don’t have enough emergency savings to cover living expenses for three months.

Black and Hispanic families more likely to cut expenses after a job loss

According to the JPMorgan Institute report, Black and Hispanic families cut everyday spending to a greater degree after an involuntary job loss than white families, differences explained by racial gaps in liquid and financial assets – gaps that are twice as large as those in take-home pay.

“The racial gap in liquid assets make black and Hispanic families more vulnerable to income fluctuations,” says the report.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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