Addressing Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in the Harmful Impacts of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly altering families’ circumstances. It is creating new social service needs and deepening pre-existing socioeconomic and related inequities. As communities address and recover from the impacts of COVID-19, effective public policy and corresponding interventions to support children and families need to address economic and health disparities that are exacerbated by this crisis.

What We Did

We conducted a literature review to explore effects of the pandemic on youth and families in the United States. We examined the effects of prior economic downturns and considered preliminary data on COVID-19 to inform a discussion of impacts and recommendations for policy and practice across Chapin Hall’s three main impact areas: child welfare, youth and family homelessness, and community capacity.

What We Found

Although the conditions and effects of the pandemic are unique, previous recessions demonstrate the harmful impacts of economic downturns on families and children, with disparate impacts on those already in precarious socioeconomic conditions. Based on these findings we suggest that policymakers and practitioners:

  1. Use healthcare and education providers as screening and access points to refer families to supports.
  2. Amplify funding support and prepare for possible shifts in service capacity for early childhood programs and child welfare initiatives.
  3. Expand sustainable solutions for homelessness prevention and increase federal and local funding.
  4. Integrate best practices from virtual delivery to expand access to services, with a focus on racial and economic equity, as social needs providers and agencies transition back to in-person services.

What It Means

These findings highlight racial disparities that are too often accepted as the norm within our public systems. In order to truly address the inequitable impacts of COVID-19, we have to acknowledge and address that these systems often perpetuate these inequities. While transformative change will require dramatic shifts beyond the scope of this brief, we hope these recommendations can begin to support that effort.

Recommended Citation
Rathore, K., Connolly, G., & Karter, C. (2020, September). Recommendations to address the inequitable impacts of COVID-19 in child welfare, housing, and community capacity. Chapin Hall Issue Brief. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
Inequitable impacts of COVID-19