Last week, Chapin Hall and Howard University released a new study, Untold Stories: Young adult & racial dimensions of COVID-19. The report examines previously untold stories of the pandemic among young people, focusing particularly on food and housing insecurity, mental health, and the racial dimensions of those adversities. The researchers analyzed a large, nationally representative dataset available through the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, which has collected data over the course of the pandemic.
Young adults between the ages of 18-24 substantially were impacted by the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by April 2020 the unemployment rate for individuals ages 20 to 24 reached a peak of 26%, over three times higher than the rate in January of 2020. In addition, unemployment rates after the pandemic were disproportionate for Hispanic, Black, and Asian young adults compared to White young adults.
During the pandemic, young adults (ages 18-25) reported alarming levels of food and housing insecurity and h the greatest hardships were experienced by BIPOC young people. The analysis revealed the following statistics:
- During the pandemic, approximately 4.9 million young adults have had too little to eat at a given time, on average.
- Black young adults reported food insecurity at about twice the rate of their White peers. Among respondents in single adult renting households, Hispanic young adults were about twice as likely, and Black young adults almost three times as likely, as White young adults to have little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent.
- Young adults with a college degree had a 16% lower probability of reporting housing insecurity in the pandemic compared to peers who had not completed a high school education.
Most young people (54%) are struggling with their mental health and the survey revealed that young people reported very concerning levels of psychosocial challenge including anxiety and depression. Rates of mental health difficulties among young adults significantly exceeded those of any other adult age group. During the pandemic, BIPOC young adults did not report higher rates of mental health difficulties compared to White peers.
The study included six recommendations:
- Partner with and support BIPOC young people and BIPOC-led groups.
- Prioritize youth and young adult homelessness prevention.
- Expand and evaluate direct financial assistance and low-barrier housing resources for youth.
- Ensure support for basic needs to and through postsecondary education.
- Expand and evaluate virtual, culturally responsive mental health service delivery models.
- Address critical young adult-related measurement issues in future administration of the Health Pulse Survey and invest in replicable national data on youth and young adult homelessness and basic needs.