The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated racial, ethnic, and gender disparities that have existed since long before the current public health crisis. With declining infection rates and increasing vaccination rates, the United States seems to be on a path to recovery. But a full recovery from the health and economic fallout of the pandemic will require adequately supporting our most vulnerable communities. A new analysis confirms disparate health and economic effects by race, ethnicity, and gender and inadequate public policy responses in the wake of the pandemic and offers actionable solutions for a more equitable recovery. Findings include the following:

  • The pandemic led to an increase in food insufficiency among families, an impact felt most acutely in households headed by Black and Latina single mothers. Expanding food and nutrition assistance and unemployment insurance and funding for community-based and local food programs would help families meet their basic needs.
  • Black, Native American, and Latino workers have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. Research shows the need for continued public health measures; safer workplace conditions, such as improved airflow; and increased access to health care, equitable vaccine distribution, housing, and worker protections.
  • Emergency sick leave offered through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act helped flatten the curve. Expanded access to paid sick leave is a crucial step toward protecting workers.
  • The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program has helped provide students with free and reduced-price meals during the crisis. The State-by-State Guide to the 2020–21 Pandemic EBT Program helps decisionmakers track the program’s implementation and execution.
  • The COVID-19 US State Policy Database, which compiles information on the social safety net and other polices states implemented during the pandemic, is documenting and increasing awareness of what policies have or have not effectively mitigated medical and financial hardship during the crisis.

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The pandemic has tested the nation’s health care, education, and safety net systems. Thus, effective, evidence-based policies that address the pandemic’s disparate effects will be crucial to ensuring recovery does not leave anyone behind.

Read More About the Research:

Community-Level Factors Associated with Racial and Ethnic Disparities In COVID-19 Rates in Massachusetts
Principal Investigator: 
Benjamin SommersHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Has Helped Flatten the Curve in the United States
Principal Investigator:
Nicolas R. ZiebarthDepartment for Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University

COVID-19 US State Policy Database
Principal Investigator:
Julia RaifmanBoston University School of Public Health

How Risk of Exposure to the Coronavirus at Work Varies by Race and Ethnicity and How to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Workers and Their Families
Principal Investigator:
Lisa DubayUrban Institute

State-by-State Guide to the 2020–21 Pandemic EBT Program
Principal Investigator:
Elaine WaxmanUrban Institute

Wide Spread Decline in Household Income during COVID-19 Pandemic Contributes to Food Insufficiency among Families
Principal Investigator:
Heidi HartmannInstitute for Women's Policy Research

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