Abstract: Disparities in Access to Unemployment Insurance and Economic Impact Payments Among Hispanic Households with Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Disparities in Access to Unemployment Insurance and Economic Impact Payments Among Hispanic Households with Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Yiyu Chen, PhD, Research Scientist, Child Trends, MD
Dana Thomson, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Child Trends
Lisa Gennetian, PhD, Associate Professor, Duke University
Background and Purpose: One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, over 30 million unemployed persons have claimed unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, and over 130 million Economic Impact Payments (EIP or stimulus payments) have been disbursed. Together, these two programs lifted more than 18 million individuals out of poverty in April, 2020 (Parolin et al., 2020). Nonetheless, prior research suggests that these distributional effects may be different across racial/ethnic groups and geographies. Prior to the pandemic, Hispanic and Black unemployed persons were less likely to access unemployment insurance (Nichols & Simms, 2012). In addition, Hispanic families were less likely to file tax returns and receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (Thomson et al., 2020). In this study, we investigate whether UI and EIP effectively reach children of racial/ethnic minorities during the pandemic, as well as factors that affect this differential receipt.

Methods: We draw data from the Household Pulse Survey, which collects biweekly data on the social and economic conditions of nationally representative samples of persons in households in the U.S. during the pandemic. Our UI analysis examines household-level UI receipt among households with children, in which at least one adult has lost a job since March 2020. Our separate EIP analysis also focuses on households with children and considers reports of no EIP receipt or no expectation to receive EIP to be non-receipt. We estimate receipt for all and Hispanic households adjusting for household characteristics and time-fixed effects. Because UI eligibility and benefits vary substantially by state, we consider state UI policies, including expanded eligibility (specifically, adoption of an alternative base period and broader definitions of involuntary unemployment) and benefit generosity (benefit durations and wage replacement rates; Ganong et al., 2020).

Results: Our multivariate results show some racial/ethnic differences in receipt. Compared to their White counterparts, Hispanic families are less likely to receive both UI and EIP; Black families are more likely to receive both benefits; Asian families are less likely to receive EIP but more likely to receive UI. UI receipt is positively associated with states’ adoption of an alternative base period, performing domestic obligations as an eligible reason for unemployment, benefit durations, and wage replacement rates. Both analyses find lower likelihoods of receipt of UI and EIP among households with children in the lowest income bracket (less than $25,000).

Conclusions and Implications: Our study finds lower likelihoods of UI receipt in states with pre-pandemic UI infrastructure characterized by tighter eligibility criteria and lower likelihoods of EIP and UI receipt among the lowest-income households and Hispanic households with children. To the extent that Hispanic and Black households with children that fall under these groups, UI and EIP show limitations in buffering economic shocks for them and their children. These preliminary and future findings will shed light on how income transfers and emergency response programs can be designed or improved to ensure racial equity and protect children from the economic impacts of the pandemic.