Methods. We used data from three collection phases, spanning 11 months, of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which consists of an online survey of persons living at randomly selected addresses, ages 18 or older, in all 50 states and D.C. The analytic sample included the subpopulation of participants who indicated responsibility for paying mortgage/rent (N=154,247). The dependent variable was degree of confidence in being able to pay next month’s mortgage/rent, measured on a 4-point Likert-scale, with higher scores reflecting greater confidence. The primary independent variables were race/ethnicity, income instability categorized as yes/no and based on employment and income, and collection phase (early, mid, or recent pandemic). Other covariates included age, gender, education, marital status, household size, and income. To assess for changes in the effects of income instability over time by race/ethnicity, we included a 3-way interaction term in the OLS regression model, estimated using robust standard errors.
Results. The three-way interaction of race/ethnicity by time and income instability was significant (F=38.31, p<0.001). Although participants affected by income instability across all racial/ethnic groups and across time reported lower confidence in their ability to pay rent/mortgage than participants unaffected by income instability, the effects were more pronounced for Black and other racial/ethnic minorities, who consistently expressed less confidence than White participants. Over time, the effects of income instability on confidence in ability to pay rent/mortgage lessened for all racial/ethnic groups except Black participants, who continued to express the greatest concern and at a similar level as at the start of the pandemic.
Conclusion and Implications. Even pre-pandemic, low-income, racially marginalized individuals faced greater housing instability and insecure employment. These results support that racial-ethnic minorities have continued to face greater economic and housing uncertainty throughout the pandemic, particularly for Black individuals and families. With temporary housing protections set to expire as early as June 2021 and little discussion at the federal level on additional direct monetary relief measures, social workers should continue to support measures directed toward rent/mortgage forgiveness, especially in predominately Black communities who have been hardest hit by the pandemic on many levels. Additionally, these results provide support for efforts by organizations and individuals advocating for increased affordable housing and eliminating racial discrimination in eviction policy, income inequality, and public assistance programs.