Inflation problem in the U.S. impacts Black families more than many other Americans

A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll shows that at a time when households across the U.S. widely report experiencing serious problems from inflation, Black Americans are substantially more likely than whites to report they are currently having serious financial problems in this period (55% to 38%). Black adults also report facing more serious issues across several areas compared to white Americans—notably, they are more likely than whites to report not having enough emergency savings to cover at least one month of their expenses (58% to 36%) and having serious problems affording food (32% vs. 21%).

In addition, a wider share of Black renters (16%) say they have been evicted or threatened with eviction in the past year than white renters (9%).

This poll, Personal Experiences of U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minorities in Today's Difficult Times, was conducted May 16 - June 13, 2022, among 4,192 U.S. adults. The report details findings among the five largest racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.: 1,216 non-Hispanic white adults, 1,103 Black adults, 1,066 Hispanic/Latino adults, 552 Asian adults, and 180 Native American adults ages 18 and older. See the Methodology below for further details.

The serious problem of inflation is impacting Black families more than many other Americans. Millions of minority households across the nation are facing distinct, serious financial problems during this period, including many who are being threatened with eviction and face unsafe conditions in their neighborhoods, with few options to help."

Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis Emeritus at Harvard Chan School

When it comes to the Hispanic/Latino community, Latinos are substantially more likely than whites to report they are currently having serious financial problems in this period (48% to 38%), as well as not having enough emergency savings to cover at least one month of their expenses (53% to 36%), having serious problems affording food (30% vs. 21%), and having serious problems affording their mortgage or rent (26% vs. 14%).

Among the Native American community, Native Americans are substantially more likely than whites to report they are currently having serious financial problems in this period (63% to 38%, see Table 1), as well as not having enough emergency savings to cover at least one month of their expenses (58% to 36%) and having serious problems affording food (39% vs. 21%).

Given the economic diversity of the U.S. Asian population, the poll examined experiences among lower-income U.S. Asian adults (earning <$50,000/year), and found notable problems, including that 46% of lower-income Asian adults in the U.S. say they are facing serious financial problems. This includes sizeable shares reporting serious problems paying their mortgage or rent (32%), serious problems affording medical care or prescription drugs (24%), and serious problems affording food (28%).

"Even though there are many programs aimed to help families with food costs, there are much higher rates of racial and ethnic minority households in the U.S. currently saying they are facing serious problems affording food. This is likely to have major immediate and longer-term health consequences for millions of families," said Mary Findling, assistant director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program at Harvard Chan School.

In this period when medical care has been disrupted, nationally 19% of U.S. households with serious illnesses have also struggled to find timely health care for those illnesses. Among U.S. households where anyone has been seriously ill in the past year, 35% of Native American households, 24% of Black households, 18% of Latino households, 18% of white households, and 10% of Asian households say they were unable to get medical care for serious illnesses when they needed it.

In addition, across racial/ethnic groups in America, housing affordability and crime are currently viewed as serious neighborhood problems by substantial shares of adults. Majorities of adults across racial/ethnic groups (74% of Latinos, 65% of Asians, 65% of whites, 61% of Blacks, and 61% of Native Americans) say lack of affordable housing to buy is a serious problem in their own neighborhoods. Of note, substantial numbers of people in minority communities report neighborhood crime as a serious problem in today's world. Forty percent of Native American adults, 35% of Black adults, 35% of Latino adults, 28% of white adults, and 22% of Asian adults say crime is currently a serious problem in their own neighborhoods.

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