61% of U.S. households with children report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak

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Boston, MA – According to a new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, 61% of U.S. households with children report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak. Serious problems are reported across a wide range of areas during this time, including depleting household savings, serious problems paying credit card bills and other debt, and affording medical care (see Table 1).

Many of these problems are concentrated among Black and Latino households with children, households with children that have annual incomes below $100,000, and households with children that have experienced job or wage losses since the start of the outbreak. Serious financial problems are reported by large majorities of Latino (86%) and Black (66%) households with children, as well as about half (51%) of white households with children. In addition, about three in four (74%) households with children that have annual incomes below $100,000 report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak.

When it comes to employment problems, 60% of households with children report any adult household members have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had wages or hours reduced since the start of the outbreak.  And among these households with job or wage losses during the coronavirus outbreak, about three in four (76%) report facing serious financial problems.

This poll, The Impact of Coronavirus on Households with Children, was conducted July 1 – August 3, 2020, among 3,454 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, including 1,000 adults in households who are living with children under age 18. Adults in this survey were asked to report on serious problems facing both themselves and others living in their households, so measures are reported as a percentage of households for all household-related questions. See the Methodology below for further details.

“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.”

When it comes to caring for children, 59% of households with children in the U.S. report experiencing serious problems during this time. This includes more than one in three (36%) facing serious problems keeping their children’s education going, and among working households, nearly one in five (18%) reporting serious problems getting childcare when adults need to work. Internet connectivity is also a major issue for some during this time, as about one in three households with children (34%) either do not have a high-speed internet connection at home or report serious problems with their internet connection to do schoolwork or their jobs.

In addition, among the 6% of U.S. households with children where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19, adults report substantially worse problems with their finances and caring for children than households who have not had COVID-19 (see Table 2). Most (94%) households with children where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 report facing serious financial problems during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, most (87%) households with children where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19 report serious problems caring for their children during this time.

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