Hispanic Adults in Families with Noncitizens Disproportionately Feel the Economic Fallout from COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Hispanic adults’ family financial security to a greater extent than other racial and ethnic groups.

The Issue

Hispanic adults disproportionately work in industries that are more likely to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Hispanic adults in families with noncitizens are disproportionately represented in industries affected by the outbreak, and therefore experience more negative unemployment impacts than families with no noncitizens. As of April 2020, nearly six in ten nonelderly Hispanic adults were in families where someone lost a job, work hours, or work-related income. Close to half experienced some material hardship in the past 30 days.

Key Findings

The analysis draws from a nationally representative survey of adults ages 18-64 conducted between March 25 and April 10 by Urban Institute researchers and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The researchers find:

  • More than half (54.2%) of Hispanic adults in families with noncitizens and two-fifths (40.6%) of those in which all family members are citizens reported household food insecurity, a family member forgoing medical care due to cost, problems paying utility bills, or problems paying the rent or mortgage in the 30 days prior to the survey.

  • Almost half of Hispanic adults in families with noncitizens reported that their families cut back spending on food (46.9%) because of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, and close to two-thirds (62.5%) of these adults have a child under age 19. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults in families with noncitizens reported that their families put off major household purchases (62.9%), and another half severely cut into savings or increased credit card debt (49.9%).

  • While Hispanic adults in families with no noncitizens were less likely to report these impacts, many also indicated they were experiencing these problems: about four in ten said they cut back spending on food (40.3%) and a similar share drew down savings or increased credit card debt (39.5%).

  • Roughly two-thirds (67.7%) of Hispanic adults in families with noncitizens are very or somewhat worried about being able to work as many hours as they want in the coming month. Additionally, large shares worry about being able to pay debts (65.3%), electric bills (62%), the rent or mortgage (61.1%), and medical costs (55.8%). More than half (58.7%) worry about having enough to eat in the next month, and of those, nearly two-thirds (64.5%) have children under age 19 in the family.


The current pandemic highlights how the health of an entire community is inextricably linked to the well-being of its individual members. Expanding federal assistance during the pandemic will be crucial to protecting the well-being of all families, especially the most vulnerable ones. A specific policy response that could help vulnerable families with noncitizen family members would be to rescind the public charge rule that discourages these families from seeking COVID-19-related emergency aid and public benefits for which at least some members may be eligible.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector. Visit the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center for more information specific to its staff and its recent research.