Disparate impacts of Covid-19 on minority groups are linked to much higher proportion who must live in overcrowded and/or substandard housing

In the United States, the Covid-19 pandemic has been exceptionally disruptive for the Black, Indigenous, and Hispanic communities. For example, as of July:

  • Black people were more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as White people.
  • Indigenous people accounted for more than 56 percent of Covid deaths in New Mexico (home to part of the Navajo Nation), although indigenous people were only 8.8 percent of the state’s population.
  • Hispanic Americans between the ages of 40 and 59 had been infected at a rate five times greater than White people in the same age group, nationwide.

Actually, the available statistics likely understate the disparate impacts of Covid substantially, because many states are inadequately reporting demographic data for Covid-related cases and deaths among minority group members. 

An important factor in Covid's disparate impacts is that a much higher proportion of minority group members have to live in overcrowded and/or substandard housing. That problem compounds other disparate impacts of the pandemic--such as the facts that people of color are more likely to: (1) have “essential” jobs in crowded workplaces; (2) rely on crowded public transportation; and (3) suffer from pre-existing health conditions. Studies have linked many of those pre-existing conditions to substandard and overcrowded housing.

EHI law clerk Jesse Brennan has documented the disparate racial impacts of Covid-19, and the relationship of those disparate impacts to America’s housing problems. To access that memorandum, please click on RACE, COVID-19, AND HOUSING.

The disproportionate housing problems of minority group members are largely the result of economically exclusionary housing practices. Those practices (exclusionary zoning and other, overly-restrictive, housing-related practices) prevent the building or preservation of sufficient amounts of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income Americans—especially in and near high-opportunity communities. 

Also, by pushing housing prices up, those policies prevent many low- and moderate-income families with children from accessing adequate housing units. For more on the health-related effects of exclusionary housing practices, please click on CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT & XHPs.  

Governments at all levels have broad authority to protect renters and homeowners during pandemic

The national emergency due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has led to extraordinary federal, state and local actions. Among them are unprecedented measures to prevent tenants and homeowners being evicted or suffering foreclosure due to the sudden, massive economic dislocations caused by the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, EHI summarized the extent of government authority to protect the health and housing of Americans in an emergency. EHI also suggested ways in which American governments could helptenants and homeowners who are unable to make full rent and mortgage payments due to the pandemic. To access EHI's report, click on GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY TO PROTECT RENTERS AND HOMEOWNERS DURING EMERGENCY


EHI has summarized how exclusionary housing policies aggravate housing problems that have been linked to increased developmental problems among low-income children. Among those problems are children's health (physical, mental and emotional), safety, educational achievement, and general cognitive and behavioral development. For more, please click on CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENT & XHPs.