Parents are Struggling to Provide for Their Families During the Pandemic

A young boy holds a stuffed toy.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses risks to low-income, black, and Hispanic parents’ ability to protect children’s health, well-being, and development.


The Issue

The COVID-19 pandemic is greatly challenging parents who have lost income and are trying to keep their children healthy and stable. More than 4 in 10 (43.3%) parents living with children under age 19 reported that they or a family member lost a job, work hours, and/or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak. The negative impacts of job loss have disproportionately affected families of color. Close to two-thirds (62.2%) of Hispanic parents and half of non-Hispanic black parents (49.7%) reported one or more of these negative impacts, whereas 36.5 percent of non-Hispanic white parents reported experiencing these impacts.

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 found:

  • With most parents reporting that their children have stayed home because of school or child care closures, many have faced difficult choices managing work and caregiving responsibilities. One-third (33.3%) report someone in the family staying home from work to care for children, and one-sixth (16.5%) report difficulty arranging child care because of the outbreak.

  • Lower-income parents and Hispanic parents were less likely to be able to work from home and more likely to have had difficulty arranging child care than higher income parents and non-Hispanic white parents.

  • Close to one-third (31%) of parents reported that because of the outbreak their family had cut back spending on food, and three in ten (30.2%) reported that their family had reduced savings or increased credit card debt.

  • Just over one-third (33.8%) of parents reported food insecurity and/or problems paying for housing, utilities, or medical costs in the past month, including roughly half of lower-income parents (52.5%), Hispanic (51.7%) and non-Hispanic black (48.2%) parents.


Ensuring children’s home environments remain as stable as possible and that their educational, nutritional, physical, and mental health needs are met will be paramount to helping families and communities weather the current crisis and minimizing adverse economic, health, and emotional effects on children.

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.