Three in five households with children face COVID-related hardship

Three in five households with children face COVID-related hardship

More than three in five (61 percent) U.S. households with children report experiencing serious financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a report from National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and  Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds.

The third in a series of reports based on a survey of nearly thirty-five hundred adults conducted between July 1 and August 3, the report, The Impact of Coronavirus on Households With Children (25 pages, PDF), found that 44 percent of respondents with children said they had depleted their savings; more than a quarter were having difficulty with their credit card, loan, or other debt payments (31 percent), rent or mortgage (26 percent), or utility bills (25 percent); 22 percent had experienced serious problems affording food, with 8 percent not having enough to eat every day; 22 percent were having difficulty making car payments; and 19 percent had had trouble affording medical care. The report also found that nearly a quarter (23 percent) of households with children reported having missed or delayed a major payment to ensure that the family had enough to eat.

Among households with children, African-American (66 percent) and Latinx (86 percent) families, households with annual incomes below $100,000 (63 percent), and households that have experienced the loss of a job or wages (76 percent) were disproportionately more likely to report financial hardship. Of the 60 percent of respondents whose households had suffered the loss of a job or wages, 55 percent had depleted their savings; more than a third were having difficulty with their credit card, loan, or other debt payments (43 percent), rent or mortgage (38 percent), utility bills (35 percent), or car payments (34 percent); 29 percent had experienced serious problems affording food; and 26 percent had had trouble affording medical care. Nearly all (96 percent) families with incomes below $30,000 that had experienced the loss of a job or wages reported having serious financial problems, as did 77 percent of those with incomes between $30,000 and $99,999.

In addition, the 6 percent of respondents with children who said a member of the household had been diagnosed with COVID-19 were more likely to report having serious problems with their finances (94 percent vs. 59 percent) and caring for their children (87 percent vs. 58 percent) than households that had not had a COVID-19 diagnosis. 

"Before federal coronavirus support programs even expired, we find millions of families with very serious problems with their finances and with educating their children," said Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis Emeritus at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "Our findings suggest there could be long-term, harmful effects on the education of children if this situation doesn’t change."

"The Impact of Coronavirus on Households With Children." National Public Radio, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report 09/30/2020. "Poll: 61% of U.S. households with children report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak." Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health press release 09/30/2020.