A new study estimates that 325,000 children in New York — with more than 1,400 of them in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties — are newly pushed into poverty or near-poverty because of job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An analysis by the United Hospital Fund and Boston Consulting Group, published last week, also estimates that 4,200 children in New York lost a parent or guardian to coronavirus between March and July.
Researchers attempted to quantify the impact the pandemic has had on New York’s children and concluded it’s been severe, racially disparate and will have long-lasting effects well into adulthood.
“This pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” said Suzanne Brundage, director of UHF’s Children’s Health Initiative and co-author of the report. “The closest comparison in the state would be 9/11, when more than 3,000 children lost a parent.”
County-level data attached to the report shows that while no dependent children in Cattaraugus County lost a parent due to COVID-19 from March to July, an estimated 970 of the county’s 17,000 children (5.7%) have fallen into or near poverty because of lost family income.
The study cited a 12.9% unemployment rate in the county due to the pandemic.
In Allegany County, the study estimated that 455 of the county’s 10,000 children (4.55%) fell into or near poverty during the pandemic.
In Chautauqua County, an estimated 1,000 of 27,000 children (3.7%) fell into or near poverty, while in Steuben County the estimated numbers are 1,000 of 21,000 children (4.76%) and in Wyoming County the numbers are 356 of 8,000 children (4.45%).
In Erie County, the WNY county hit hardest by COVID-19, nearly 800 people had died as of July, leaving one in every 2,170 children without a caregiver. Of the county’s nearly 190,000 children, 14,000 (7.37%) were newly in or near poverty, according to the study.
Across New York state, nearly a quarter of the children who lost caregivers during the pandemic may have lost a sole parent or guardian, putting them at risk of entering foster care or the care of a relative, the study found. A majority will suffer financial hardship, with about half entering poverty, the study concluded.
“Losing a parent or caregiver during childhood raises a child’s risk of developing a range of poor outcomes over their lifetime, including poorer mental and physical health,” Brundage said.
The pandemic hit New York’s children of color especially hard.
Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to have lost a guardian to coronavirus than their white and Asian counterparts, with one in every 600 Black children and 700 Hispanic children experiencing a loss compared to one in every 1,400 Asian children and 1,500 white children. The statewide rate is one in every 1,000 children.
Children in New York City and downstate counties also lost parents at high rates. The study found that 57% of New York’s parental deaths were concentrated in just three boroughs — the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.
The authors were not able to estimate the pandemic’s poverty-related effects on children living with undocumented workers or the compounding effects of parental job loss on families already living in or near poverty prior to the pandemic.
Teen unemployment soared in the state as well, with an estimated 77,000 additional teens unemployed in June, compared to the June 2019 average. Teens in low-income families often work to help support their families, the study’s authors pointed out, and teen unemployment has been linked to mental health hospitalizations in later life and depressed future earnings.
The study suggests the losses of income in families could cost the state anywhere from $550 million to $800 million over the next 12 months when factoring in partial rent and nutritional support, new state Medicaid coverage and access to Internet and devices for remote learning.
Over the lifetimes of children negatively affected by the pandemic in economic terms, the study estimates, it could cost the state $1.7 billion, while the children themselves stand to lose $8.5 billion in annual earnings as adults due to learning deficits that stem from disrupted or remote education.
“As New Yorkers determine how to respond to the pandemic during a precarious city and state budget situation, it is critical not to lose sight of its immediate and long-term effects on child poverty, mental health and overall well-being,” said UHF President Anthony Shih. “We hope this analysis will provide policymakers and community leaders with the data to help develop necessary strategies and policies.”