A Hardship Chain Reaction

Financial difficulties are stressing families’ and young children’s wellbeing during the pandemic, and it could get a lot worse.

UOregon CTN
Jul 20, 2020 · 9 min read

Key Findings

With federal supplemental unemployment benefits and bans on evictions due to expire at the end of the month, those who have been struggling already will experience significant escalations in hardship and emotional difficulties; moreover, millions more young children in families who have been barely hanging on are likely to experience this same chain of events.


Using 2010 census data, this means that approximately two million households with children age five and under in this country are experiencing such hardships.

Chronic stress has lasting, long-term effects.

A number of policy measures that were implemented at the start of the pandemic are about to expire.

The implication of these data are simple and straightforward: policy makers must take action to prevent families with young children from financial and material hardship.

This doesn’t have to happen


Caregivers experiencing more financial and material hardship also have more emotional distress.

When caregivers experience more financial and material hardship, they also report more emotional difficulties in their children.

Lower caregiver well-being related to financial and material hardship drives increases in children’s emotional distress.

In short, the financial and material hardships households are experiencing are negatively impacting children because they are disrupting the well-being of caregivers.

Implications of this chain reaction

However, our findings suggest that across all households with more financial and material hardship, there is greater emotional suffering by caregivers and, in turn, their children.

Recommendations for policymakers

Additional readings

About the project

Suggested citation

RAPID-EC Project

Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development Early Childhood Household Survey Project