The Prevalence of Hardship by Race and Ethnicity in the USA, 1992–2019

John Iceland*, Arthur Sakamoto

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Racial and ethnic inequality continues to be the subject of considerable public interest. We shed light on this issue by examining racial disparities in the prevalence of several types of hardship, such as trouble paying bills and housing problems, in the USA over the 1992–2019 period. Using data from several panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we find that hardships were considerably higher—sometimes double, depending on the measure—among blacks and Hispanics than whites and Asians. Nevertheless, these disparities generally narrowed over time. We find that the decline in these disparities—as indicated by a summary hardship index—exceeded that of the official income poverty ratio. We also find that while Asians were more likely to be poor than whites, they were not more likely to experience hardship. Notably, we also see variation in the experiences of different types of hardship. Specifically, there was little decline in the racial disparity of two of the hardships that tend to be responsive to short-term fluctuations in income—bill-paying and health hardship, as well as fear of crime—but substantial declines in disparities with most other measures. Overall, our findings indicate significant racial differences in the experience of hardship, though with a narrowing of many gaps over time.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2001-2036
    Number of pages36
    JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Demography
    • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Hardship
    • Poverty
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Racial inequality


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