Poll: High U.S. inflation rates are having a more serious impact on Black Americans than white Americans

Substantial shares of Latinos and Native Americans also report serious problems during this period

Boston, MA – 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%, see Table 1). 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%, see Figure 1).

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,” said 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%, see Table 1), 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.

View the complete poll findings.

Methodology

The poll in this study is part of an ongoing series of surveys developed by researchers at the Harvard Opinion Research Program (HORP) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR. The research team consists of the following members at each institution.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:  Robert J. Blendon, Emeritus Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis and Executive Director of HORP; John M. Benson, Senior Research Scientist and Managing Director of HORP; Mary G. Findling, Assistant Director of HORP; Loren Saulsberry, Assistant Professor, Health Services Research, Department of Public Health Sciences, The University of Chicago; Chelsea Whitton Pearsall, Research Coordinator of HORP.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Carolyn Miller, Senior Program Officer, Research-Evaluation-Learning; Jordan Reese, Director of Media Relations; Maryam Khojasteh, Program Officer, Research, Evaluation, Learning.

NPR: Andrea Kissack, Senior Supervising Editor, Science Desk; Will Stone, Editor, Science Desk; Marcia Davis, Supervising Editor of Race and Identity, National Desk; Jason DeRose, Senior Editor, National Desk.

Interviews were conducted online and via telephone (cellphone and landline), May 16 – June 13, 2022, among a nationally representative, probability-based sample of 4,192 adults age 18 or older in the U.S. Data collection was conducted in English and Spanish by SSRS (Glen Mills, PA), an independent research company. The survey included nationally representative samples of white, Black, Latino, Asian, and Native Americans.

The sample consisted of two main components: (1) An address-based sample (ABS), with respondents randomly sampled from the United States Postal Service’s Computerized Delivery Sequence (CDS) file. These sampled households were sent an invitation letter including a link to complete the survey online and a toll-free number that respondents could call to complete the survey with a telephone interviewer. All respondents were sent a reminder postcard, which also included a QR code they could scan to be linked to the survey via a smart device. Households that could be matched to telephone numbers and that had not yet completed the survey were called to attempt to complete an interview; (2) Respondents reached via the SSRS Opinion Panel and the Ipsos Knowledge Panel, two online probability-based panels that recruit respondents through address-based sampling. In order to represent hardest-to-reach populations, address-based sampling was supplemented by interviews using Advanced Cellular Frame (ACF), a random sample of cellphone numbers. A total of 3,791 respondents completed the questionnaire online and 401 by telephone.

Possible sources of non-sampling error include non-response bias, as well as question wording and ordering effects. Non-response produces some known biases in survey-derived estimates because participation tends to vary for different subgroups of the population. To compensate for these known biases and for variations in probability of selection within and across households, the samples were weighted to match the distribution of the population based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS). Weighting parameters included: gender, age, education level, race/ethnicity, region, and party identification.

Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo

For more information:

Nicole Rura
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
nrura@hsph.harvard.edu
617-221-4241

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Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at Harvard Chan teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.

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