Personal Experiences of U.S. Racial/Ethnic Groups in Today’s Difficult Times

A stark look at problems faced across racial/ethnic groups in the U.S. amid a period of inflation, political conflict, the pandemic, and other competing crises.

A woman and man have a conversation while standing on a sidewalk.

Community organizers meet to tour a neighborhood as part of a city revitalization project.

Households across America are facing barriers to affordable housing, delayed healthcare, and problems affording food—with these trends being acutely felt among Black, Latino, and Native American families.

 

 

As inflation hits a 40-year high—only compounded by the ongoing pandemic, political conflict, and an unaffordable housing market—a survey done by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provides clear evidence that many families in the U.S. are facing serious problems across many facets of their lives.

Personal Experiences of U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minorities in Today’s Difficult Times presents an in-depth examination of the challenges communities of color face today, including serious problems with finances, housing, healthcare, and neighborhood conditions. The poll paints a dire picture of families across the U.S. grappling with economic stress; while deep disparities are surfaced in the data, everyone is falling behind where they hoped to be.  

A companion report, Neighborhood-Level Differences in Black Americans’ Experiences in Today’s Difficult Times, shares data revealing how Black Americans who live in neighborhoods with high levels of racial segregation often face greater levels of disadvantage and poverty, poor social conditions, lower quality housing, and less access to good jobs and education than those in less segregated neighborhoods. 

Key Findings

  • Currently, roughly half of Black (55%) and Latino (48%) households, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Native American households, and one-third (29%) of Asian households in the U.S. say they are facing serious financial problems paying off credit cards and loans, affording food, medical care or prescription drugs, and problems paying mortgage or rent, as compared with 38% of White households.  

  • A majority of adults across racial/ethnic lines cited a lack of affordable housing to buy and a lack of affordable rental housing as serious problems in their neighborhoods.

  • Black, Native American, and Latino families were significantly more likely to report serious problems with air and water quality where they live, as well as a lack of access to parks and green spaces.

  • Far too many people in the U.S. today report that they aren’t achieving their goals in life. Half (50%) of Black and Latino adults, 45% of Native American adults, 40% of White adults and 33% of Asian adults say they have fallen behind in the past year. This widely reported among Gen Z and Millennial adults, ages 18–41.

About the Survey

This survey was conducted to explore critical issues across a number of important areas that have surfaced across this period, and how these areas are impacting African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and Native American/American Indian/Alaska Native individuals, households, and communities on a national scale.

Deep economic impacts felt among Black, Latino, and Native households.

This poll provides powerful evidence that several communities of color are often much worse off than non-Hispanic White counterparts in the current period when it comes to facing serious problems with their finances, housing, healthcare, safety, and neighborhood conditions. In particular, high proportions of Black, Latino, and Native American adults report facing serious financial problems—owing to inflation and other causes. Majorities of Black (58%), Latino (53%), and Native American (58%) adults say they do not have enough emergency savings to cover at least one month of their expenses.

Major disparities in intergenerational transmission of wealth.

Intergenerational wealth transmission is an important source of wealth concentration in the U.S., with stark racial/ethnic divides. When it comes to intergenerational wealth transmission, more than one-third (38%) of White adults say their parents or older relatives have ever given them or their family gifts or loans worth $10,000 or more over the course of their adult lives, while only 14% of Black adults, 16% of Latino adults, and 19% of Native American adults say this.

Segregation has limited health and opportunity for many Black households.

In the U.S. today, Black Americans living in highly segregated neighborhoods (where >50% of residents living in the census tract identify as a person of color) report being much worse off in many dimensions than those living in predominantly White neighborhoods when it comes to several areas of their lives: notably with less affordable housing in their neighborhoods, lower ratings of their public school systems, worse air quality, fewer safe places for children to play outside, and less banking in the mainstream U.S. financial system. Residential segregation is a potentially powerful but understudied predictor of Black Americans’ health and well-being—demonstrating the impacts of decades of disinvestment and inadequate resource flows to communities of color. 

Summary

Overall, these findings raise important concerns about how our current economic fallout is exacerbating existing disparities in health and opportunity among communities of color in the U.S. Families across the board, but especially Black, Latino, and Native American families, are feeling immediate pressures on housing and food security that must be acted on by leaders at all levels. If we don’t, we risk creating new obstacles to prosperity and well-being for an entire generation.

Methodology

This poll was conducted May 16-June 13, 2022, among a nationally representative, probability-based sample of 4,192 adults age 18 or older in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish, according to respondents’ preferences. This multi-modal survey offered adults three choices to complete the survey: online, landline, and cell phone.