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Latino Households Disproportionately Hit By COVID-19, Harvard Poll Finds

Gordon Hall of Medicine, an administrative building at Harvard Medical School, sits overlooking the Quadrangle at the Longwood campus.
Gordon Hall of Medicine, an administrative building at Harvard Medical School, sits overlooking the Quadrangle at the Longwood campus. By Megan M. Ross
By Kevin A. Simauchi, Crimson Staff Writer

A survey conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that minority households in the United States are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers polled 3,454 U.S. adults during the months of July and August to gather data for a five-part series about households’ experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. In total, there were 1,750 non-Hispanic white, 666 non-Hispanic Black, 648 Latino, 224 non-Hispanic Asian, and 101 Native American adult respondents.

Dr. Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and Professor Emeritus of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the pandemic has discriminated against Latino households the most.

As a result of the pandemic, the survey found that Latinos, compared to other ethnic and racial minority groups, suffered the most amount of job or wage losses.

Sixty-three percent of surveyed Latino households had members that have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had wages or hours reduced since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Among Latino households with job or wage losses, a staggering 87 percent report having serious financial problems.

For pollsters, the results were shocking. Dr. Mary T. Gorski Findling, a research associate with the School of Public Health noted how she seldom sees such large disparities in public health research.

“We rarely see these numbers in public opinion research,” Gorski Findling said. “It seems so much worse for people than we thought.”

The polling strongly suggested that for Latinos, job losses almost invariably meant significant financial losses.

“This community is not getting a significant amount of aid to get themselves through this public health disaster,” Blendon said. “Almost half of Latinos have no savings left, which means that trying to keep their lives going, they’ve just have wiped out everything they have. Large numbers [of poll respondents] can’t pay the debt they have.”

The poll reported that exactly 46 percent of Latino respondents used up all or most of their savings, with an additional 15 percent volunteering that they did not have any household savings prior to the pandemic.

“Job loss was pretty closely tied to having financial problems,” Gorski Findling said. “So the idea that once your job goes away you don’t have anything, you know, you don’t have anything, you don’t have that cushion that we would hope for.”

For perspective, only 36 percent of white households reported having financial issues because of the pandemic.

Blendon and Gorski Findling said federal aid dollars appropriated through Congress do not seem to have reached Latino households.

“They’re not getting enough,” Blendon added. “There is not enough financial support to get through this public health disaster for them.”

—Staff writer Kevin A. Simauchi can be reached at kevin.simauchi@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @simauchi.

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RaceResearchSchool of Public HealthCoronavirus