Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Among School-Aged Children: Are We Doing Enough?

Arica White, PhD, MPH; Leandris C. Liburd, PhD; Fátima Coronado, MD, MPH


Prev Chronic Dis. 2021;18(6):e55 

In This Article

Inequities in Social Determinants of Health

Racial or ethnic minority populations are more likely to experience lower socioeconomic status, live in crowded housing, and possibly be employed in occupations that require in-person work.[2] Furthermore, access to health care may be limited, including obtaining testing and care for COVID-19.[2] Compared with NHW (26%) and Asian/Pacific Islander children (25%), a larger proportion of NHB (58%), American Indian (56%), and Hispanic (53%) children younger than 18 years lived in families with incomes less than 200% of the federal poverty level in 2019.[35] Compared with NHW (21%) and Asian/Pacific Islander children (21%), a larger proportion of NHB (41%), American Indian (44%), and Hispanic (31%) children's parents lack secure employment.[35] In addition, Hispanic and NHB children, regardless of their families' income, are more likely than NHW or Asian children to attend schools with a high proportion of students from families with incomes below the federal poverty level.[36]

School districts that serve a high proportion of students who are from racial and ethnic minority populations and students who are from families with lower incomes receive less state and local funding than schools that serve a lower proportion of these groups.[37] School funding determines the availability of student supports, classroom sizes, and a myriad of other factors that can affect student learning.[37] Under-resourced schools may be unable to sufficiently address students' academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic without support from community institutions and resources, including public health. However, in light of new federal funding through the American Rescue Plan,[38] these school districts have a new opportunity to invest in meaningful and productive partnerships.

In addition to the potential for overcoming educational inequities, promotion of resilience may prevent or ameliorate the impacts of social adversity on children. Evidence suggests that specific individual (eg, cognitive skills, emotion regulation, self-esteem), relational (eg, relationships with caregivers), and school factors (eg, academic engagement) are associated with resilience.[39] Factors that promote resilience can be considered at multiple levels (eg, individual, family, environmental) and are complimentary to public health efforts.[40]