[Excerpt from feature article by Jenna Carlesso, CT Mirror, 7/6/2020]
Inequities in health care, education, economic stability and housing have persisted for years in Connecticut, fueling disparate health outcomes, life expectancies, employment opportunities and personal wealth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought these disparities into sharp focus, amplifying problems that have long festered, researchers with New Haven-based DataHaven concluded in a new report about social inequity and the impact of coronavirus.
“These disparities are concerning even outside of a pandemic. But as COVID-19 takes an especially sobering toll on already-disadvantaged communities, it becomes evident that systemic oppression based on race, language, poverty, and other socioeconomic factors has left some people more vulnerable than others,” the report’s authors, Kelly Davila, Mark Abraham, and Camille Seaberry, wrote.
In its wide-ranging study, DataHaven examined how discrimination and other social factors led to the disparate outcomes. As COVID-19 spread across Connecticut, the group also looked at how those inequities have been magnified during the pandemic.
Black residents here are 2 ½ times more likely to die from a coronavirus infection than whites. The death rate for Hispanics is 67% higher than for white residents when adjusted for age differences.
People of color here are also more likely to work in high-risk, “essential” jobs, such as those in nursing homes, grocery stores and retail, and to live in densely populated communities and have higher rates of pre-existing conditions like diabetes and asthma that are caused or worsened by systemic racism.
During the pandemic, residents in low income, predominantly minority neighborhoods have faced larger barriers to testing and other services.
“The racial and ethnic health disparities that are so clear during this pandemic reflect longstanding disparities in health outcomes and access to resources,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, who reviewed the report. “It is critical that as we work to eliminate disparities, we recognize and address the many ways that racism shapes health outcomes and influences the systems and institutions we all rely on.”
Due to redlining and restrictive zoning, Black and Latino families face more obstacles to homeownership and are more likely to rent their homes, the DataHaven researchers pointed out. Renters disproportionately live in overcrowded households. Subsidized and lower-cost housing is concentrated in low-income, urban areas.
Households led by a Black or Latino adult are less than half as likely to own their home than those led by white adults. Households led by a single woman have similarly low rates of home ownership.
In 2018, more than 10% of Black and Latino adults, young adults, and those with children reported being unable to pay for housing. Seven percent of renters who had moved in the past three years reported being evicted, a number that was higher for Black and Latino adults.
With the loss of work during the pandemic, “many Connecticut residents are facing housing insecurity due to inability to pay rent or mortgages,” the authors wrote. “Evictions and foreclosures are temporarily prohibited, but it is still unknown whether families will be asked to leave their homes if they are unable to pay past-due rent after the hold is lifted.”
What can be done?
The authors of the study offered a range of suggestions for reform, including expanding insurance coverage; closing gaps in educational opportunities (beginning in youth); boosting economic opportunities and access to food, housing, and comprehensive social services; and reducing discrimination in employment, health care, policing, and urban planning.
“Addressing social needs – especially those related to basic necessities such as food and housing – can improve individual and public health,” they wrote. “When individuals spend less time and energy worrying about how to survive day to day, they can invest more time in improving their overall health and quality of life.
“During the current pandemic, the struggle to obtain food and pay for housing has become a reality for some who previously had only considered these needs in the abstract.”
New policies should be implemented in tandem with community-based organizations, which already work to reduce the legacy of discrimination, the researchers said.
Read the full article at CT Mirror.