Gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ widened by Covid pandemic

The gap between the "haves" and "have nots" has been widened by the Covid-19 pandemic while women, younger individuals, those with lower levels of formal education, and people of colour were hit hardest by the crisis, a new study has found.

The study by the Indiana University (IU) in the US, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, found that Black adults were three times as likely as whites to report food insecurity, being laid off, or being unemployed during the pandemic.

Additionally, residents without a college degree were twice as likely to report food insecurity (compared to those with some college) while those not completing high school are four times as likely to report it, compared to those with a bachelor's degree.

These patterns persisted even after taking into account employment status and financial hardship before the pandemic.

The study found that younger adults and women were also more likely to report economic hardships.

"It is clear that the pandemic has had an extraordinary impact on the economic security of individuals who were already vulnerable and among disadvantaged groups," said Bernice Pescosolido, a distinguished professor of sociology at IU and co-author of the study.

"This work demonstrates the need for strategically deployed relief efforts and longer-term policy reforms to challenge the perennial and unequal impact of disasters."

The reach this conclusion, the authors measured four self-reported indicators of economic precarity: housing insecurity, food insecurity, general financial insecurity, and unemployment or job loss.

"Providing basic resources to all Americans, such as generous unemployment benefits, paid family leave, affordable federal housing and universal preschool will help communities better weather crisis," said Brea Perry, professor of sociology at IU and co-author of the study.

"We need to rethink how we intervene in disasters and also strengthen our social safety net for everyone." While the impact may not be fully understood at this time, Perry said that "we do know that rebuilding public health and other social structures will not only assist disadvantaged groups in times of need, it will also help society at large".

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