Faced with the nation’s worst inflation in four decades, Black, Latino and Native American families are already having more issues affording food, housing and healthcare compared to their white counterparts, a new poll shows.
The findings, released Monday from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, mirror prior research detailing the ways in which some people of color are worse off as the cost of living soars.
In June, consumer prices rose 9.1% from a year earlier, hitting a nearly 41-year high. Around that time, 55% of Black Americans, 48% of Latinos and 63% of Native Americans reported “serious financial problems,” compared to 38% percent of white adults and 29% of Asian adults.
Native Americans were the most burdened group in nearly every spending category, struggling to pay for credit cards, loans, food and medical care at higher rates than their Black and Latino peers, according to the poll.
The exception was housing: 23% of Black households and 26% of Latino households in the survey reported serious problems paying their mortgage or rent, compared to 21% of Native American households, who were nonetheless more likely to report that they had been evicted or threatened with eviction in the past year.
It’s no surprise that the increase in inflation, driven in part by gasoline prices and sky-high housing costs, would burden Black, Latino and Native American families particularly hard. Not only do Black, Hispanic and Native American families tend to make less money each year, they also tend to have lower homeownership rates, lower credit scores and less wealth, making them more vulnerable in times of economic hardship.
The share of Black and Latino families struggling to afford housing is especially concerning because, as tenants, they’re more likely than their white and Asian counterparts to be considered “cost-burdened.” This means they spend more than 30% of their income on rent, giving them little room to adjust for higher prices.
“The serious problem of inflation is impacting Black families more than many other Americans,” Robert J. Blendon, co-director of the survey and a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement. “Millions of households led by people of color 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.”
The consequences of the lopsided impacts of inflation could portend future health issues for those already-marginalized communities. Mary Findling, assistant director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, added in a statement that issues with food affordability are “likely to have major immediate and longer-term health consequences for millions of families.”
The poll is part of an ongoing set of surveys developed by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers in partnership with NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The most recent survey interviews were conducted online and via telephone from May 16 through June 13, and included nearly 4,200 adults with nationally representative samples of white, Black, Latino, Asian and Native Americans.