USC: 80% of Adults Had Serious Hardships During Pandemic


Lockdown during COVID-19 pandemic

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - From high stress to food insecurity to losing a job, eight in 10 U.S. residents experienced at least one serious economic, psychological or health-related calamity since the start of the pandemic last year, according to a USC study of pandemic-related hardships released today.

Almost half of adults (48%) reported financial insecurity at some point since April 2020, with 29% experiencing food insecurity and 18% missing one or more rent or mortgage payments, the study found.

The USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research's Pandemic Misery Index measures the serious hardships people have experienced over the course of the pandemic and the distribution of those experiences across the population of U.S. adults.

“Despite unprecedented economic stimulus and direct financial support to individuals and families, hardships related to the pandemic persist,'' said Jill Darling, survey director, USC Dornsife Center. “As recently as the end of March, more than two in 10 U.S. adults experienced financial insecurity, 7% were food insecure and 6% missed a house payment.''

The study also found that more than one-third reported symptoms of high stress (37%), moderate to severe psychological distress (36%) and/or at least one experience of COVID-based discrimination (37%). One-third (33%) reported being placed in isolation or quarantine.

In April 2020, as the U.S. economy stumbled and unemployment reached double digits, 50% of U.S. residents reported experiencing some kind of serious economic, psychological or health-related hardship. Since then, the prevalence of these hardships has declined 22 percentage points to 28% in late March, according to the study.

Research found that the burden of COVID-related hardship falls unequally across the population. Almost nine in 10 Latinos (89%) have faced at least one serious hardship during the pandemic, compared to 86% of Black people, 80% of Asians and 76% of white people. While the percentage of people experiencing a serious hardship has declined for all races/ethnicities, the share of Latino and Black people facing hardships remains much higher.

“In many cases, the burden of pandemic misery is falling disproportionately on communities of color,'' said Kyla Thomas, sociologist, USC Dornsife Center. “Latino and Black adults continue to face economic- and health-related distress at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups and will likely face a more difficult path to recovery from the pandemic.''

The data was collected from participants in the Understanding America Study, which is billed as a nationally representative, probability-based online panel of adults who regularly answer tracking survey questions.

Findings are based on responses from 8,425 participants, who were drawn from the more than 9,000 members of the UAS. Participants responded between April 1, 2020, and March 30.

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