New Report from Citizens’ Committee for Children Reveals How COVID-19 Exacerbated Long-Standing Racial Inequalities for NYC Children & Families


May 10, 2021

Child & Family Well-Being Index Ranks 59 Community Districts By Greatest Risks to Children’s Economic Security, Health, Education & Safety;

95% of Children in the Highest Risk Category are Children of Color

New York, NY –– Today, the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC), released “Child & Family Well-Being in New York City Ranking Risks and Understanding COVID-19 Impacts Across 59 Community Districts,” a first-of-its-kind analysis of the barriers to well-being children and families face in the aftermath of COVID-19. The report outlines how and why the pandemic has disproportionately devastated communities of color, noting higher rates of child poverty, overcrowded housing, and lack of access to health care, and includes a policy roadmap to uproot long-standing inequalities and help families recover from the devastation of COVID-19.

The report outlines why decisive action must be taken to address the cumulative and compounding consequences of the current crises on children and their families and the preexisting risk factors that have contributed to these sobering effects. Rising parental unemployment levels deepen child hunger, housing insecurity and homelessness; decreased engagement in well-child visits, immunization, and early intervention due to shelter-in-place requirements result in declining child health and development; and inequitable distance learning and learning loss widen the racial achievement gap. These threats to child well-being are also increasing at a time of social isolation and result in declining mental health, heightened risk of child welfare involvement as well as greater exposure to community level violence.

The findings reveal how existing disparities in health care access, housing and employment have only become more exaggerated during the pandemic. New Yorkers who are Black, Hispanic, or immigrants have endured the highest rates of COVID-19 related illness or death. Several communities ranked in the high-risk categories are communities of color with high shares of residents working in essential services who face higher risk of exposure to the virus (e.g. health care and food retail) or industries with higher rates of job and wage loss (e.g., restaurants and hospitality). Meanwhile, more than 470,000 households in New York City lack broadband internet access. This not only limits the possibility of remote work for parents and remote learning for children but impedes access to basic health and safety information, as well as needed services, including safety net programs and vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn glaring attention to long-standing inequities that have systematically endangered the well-being of families and children of color across New York City for generations; today, these inequities are deeper and ever more threatening,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “As we set our sights on New York City’s recovery, we must not be satisfied with a return to the state of inequity that existed prior to the pandemic. In the past, even as progress was made in many areas, troubling disparities persisted along racial, ethnic, and geographic lines. Combatting racism and discrimination in all forms must be part of pandemic recovery efforts and result in uprooting long-standing barriers to wellbeing that are laid bare in this report. New York’s next mayor will be at the helm of the city’s rebirth and he or she must seize the moment to advance an ambitious agenda that ensures the lives of all  New Yorkers in every community are distinguished by the presence of equity, justice and well-being.”

For the sixth year in a row, communities districts in the Bronx are overrepresented in the highest risk category overall and in multiple domains (Economic Security, Housing, Education, and Family & Community), with the highest risk ratings in Mott Haven, Morrisania, Hunts Point, East Tremont, University Heights, and Concourse/Highbridge. The Bronx also had the highest rate of COVID-19 related deaths.

Additional key findings for each domain include:

  • Economic Security: More than a third of children are in poverty in all the districts in the highest risk category, and as high as one in two children in University Heights, Morrisania, East Tremont, and the Lower East Side. In the lowest risk category, child poverty estimates are below eight percent. Households in communities already struggling with unacceptable levels of poverty have been disproportionately hit by falling incomes and job loss.
  • Housing: More than 20% of renter households in nearly 90% of community districts paid more than half of their income on rent prior to the pandemic. Housing insecurity has deepened in the pandemic as 46% of Black renters with children and 55% of Hispanic/Latino renters with children report lack of confidence in meeting their next month’s rent.
  • Health: While child health care coverage is near universal, coverage does not equal access. Post-COVID data reveals disruption in child hospital visits, immunization, dental care, and lack of access to behavioral health Infant mortality rates for babies born to mothers who are Black remain alarmingly high at 7.9 per 1,000 births, compared to babies born to mothers who are Hispanic (3.8), Asian (2.7), or White (2.3). Infant mortality rates as a whole, as well as the share of babies born with low birth weight, are two to three times higher in certain community districts.
  • Education: Prior to the pandemic, less than a third of students in the highest risk category scored proficient on Math and ELA exams, compared to more than two-thirds of students in the lowest risk districts, and pass rates for students who are Black and Latino were half the rate for students who are White or Asian. During the pandemic, heads of households who are Black or Latino were at least twice as likely to report their child having had zero days of contact with a teacher in the past week compared to heads of households who are White.
  • Youth: During times of economic decline, young people have been historically pushed out of the job market. Youth disengagement and unemployment rates vary dramatically across communities, with the share of unemployed youth being six times higher in the highest risk areas than in the lowest risk areas. The pandemic has exacerbated inequity and loss of income contributes to stress for young people – nearly one in two young people report symptoms of anxiety and depressions.
  • Family and Community: Single-parent families and adults without a High School degree are more likely to face economic insecurity pre-pandemic, and continue to face greater barriers to well-being. Since March 2020, women and people of color experienced disproportionate displacement from the workforce. These New Yorkers were more likely to be part of the 40% of households with children who experienced hunger because they just couldn’t afford enough food.

Based on these findings, CCC is calling on city leaders to leverage federal stimulus dollars as they negotiate an Adopted Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 that ensures:

  • The Summer Rising initiative includes sufficient resources for CBO planning, increased rates to support staff and services to effectively develop and deliver summer programming.
  • Behavioral health funding addresses crisis-level needs of children, adolescents, and their caregivers, with additional investments to strengthen community-based organizations, ensure a full continuum of services in schools, and facilitate relationships between community based services and schools.
  • The value of city rent subsidies must be increased to market rate to both prevent homelessness and increase housing security among families with children exiting shelter.
  • Extended day and year-round care must be invested in across child care, 3K and UPK.
  • Investments in early childhood special education must result in enough seats to address the shortage for preschoolers with disabilities and extend salary parity to preschool special education teachers.
  • Anti-hunger initiatives in schools and communities receive the support they need to address food insecurity that has deepened as a result of COVID-19.

“The report findings are deeply sobering. When you compare data on racial disparities prior to the pandemic to the state of risk now, you can see that the very communities that were barely hanging on before COVID-19 are the same ones that experienced the greatest devastation during the pandemic. Armed with insights from the 2021 Child & Family Well-being Index, we urge New York’s next mayor to invest in the communities that have been systematically underfunded for generations. The health and well-being of New York’s children and families depend upon it,” said Sophia N. Halkitis, Data Analyst Citizens’ Committee for Children and an author of the report.

“New York has witnessed the devastation of child poverty for decades, and economic inequality and the racial wealth gap have widened further in our city during the pandemic. But the good news is, we know what investments in communities improve child and family well-being,” said Bijan Kimiagar, Associate Executive Director for Research at Citizens’ Committee for Children. “New York City is at a pivotal moment. We can either choose to maintain the status quo and uphold long-standing inequalities, or we choose to break down barriers to well-being and advance equity and recovery for all New York’s children and families. In a city that prides itself on being one of the most inclusive in America, the choice is clear.”

Long-term, children, families, communities, and New York City overall will not recover without sustained and stable investments that confront the systemic disinvestment, disparities, and discrimination that the pandemic, economic decline, and persistent race-based injustice have both exacerbated and laid bare. The path to recovery must:

  • Focus on initiatives that can dramatically reduce child poverty and promote economic mobility for families of color and low-income households including efforts to address wage disparities, deepen New York City’s earned income tax credit and reform the City’s child and dependent care credit, and connect every kindergartener to a college savings platform.
  • Prioritize policies that keep children, youth and families stably and safely housed including offering rent subsidies of market rate value and expanding affordable and supportive housing that addresses the specific needs of youth and families with children.
  • Create and support a robust continuum of primary health and behavioral health care for children, adolescents, and their caregivers – offering integrated care in pediatric settings and developmental and behavioral health supports in early care and education and schools.
  • Commit to an equitable educational continuum beginning with making infant toddler care accessible and affordable, 3-K and UPK universal, and high quality K-to-12 instruction.
  • Expand year-round youth employment opportunities, as well as universal, year-round, and well-supported after school and summer programs.
  • End the over-policing of communities, and invest in equity with affordable food, banks, transportation, street safety, green space, and broadband access accessible to all.

The analysis examines community district-level data across six domains of well-being — including economic security, housing, health, education, youth, and family and community — and ranks each community district’s overall risk to child and family well-being from highest risk, moderate high risk, moderate risk, moderate low risk, and lowest risk. This analysis leverages data from both before and during the pandemic, exposing how the public health crisis coincided with and exacerbated existing crises of economic inequality and racial injustice.

You can view the index report in its entirety here.

CCC is an independent, nonpartisan child advocacy organization that leverages data on the well-being of children and families to inform budgetary, legislative and programmatic decisions made at the federal, state, and local level. By measuring indicators across six domains of well-being (economic security, housing, health, education, youth, and family and community) on an annual basis, CCC’s Child and Family Well-being Index is designed to illustrate where risk factors cluster and draw attention to community districts across the city where barriers to child and family well-being must be addressed.

 

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