*Working Paper Housing Initiative

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing Instability during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Stable and adequate housing is critical in the midst of a pandemic; without housing, individuals and families cannot shelter in place to prevent the spread of disease. Understanding and combating housing hardships in vulnerable populations is therefore essential to a sound public health response. This study aims to explore the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on housing-related hardships across racial/ethnic groups in the United States as well as the extent to which these disparities are mediated by households’ broader economic circumstances; namely, their pre-pandemic liquid asset levels and the experience of COVID-19-related job and income losses.

Using a national survey of over 4,000 households, we find that Black and Hispanic respondents were more vulnerable to housing-related hardships during the pandemic than White respondents. These impacts were particularly pronounced in lower-income minority households. For Black respondents, who had much lower levels of pre-pandemic liquid assets than other groups, liquid assets acted as a strong mediator of housing hardship disparities between White and Black respondents. On the other hand, neither liquid asset amounts before the pandemic nor employment shocks during the pandemic explain the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on Hispanic families. Our findings imply that housing became less stable for racial/ethnic minority groups as a result of the pandemic. In particular, the observed disparities, as well as the mechanisms driving them, demonstrate the necessity of policies and practices that target support to these economically marginalized groups.


Chun, Y., Roll, S., Miller, S, Lee, H., Larimore, S, &Grinstein-Weiss, M. “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing Instability during the COVID-19 Pandemic” (2020). Social Policy Institute Research 38. https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/spi_research/38