The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst pandemics in recent history due to its highly infectious nature. The disease, which emerged in China with the first case being detected in December 2019, has spread very fast to the rest of the world, with a considerable negative impact on all nations’ social and economic well-being. Although the disease itself has a huge burden on lives, measures implemented to curtail its spreading have resulted in a huge economic burden for people globally. Global governments and policymakers in public health have recommended numerous measures to control the spreading, such as restrictions of social gatherings and even lockdowns (Shah & Farrow, 2020). The measures affect various people due to economic shocks and challenges, such as loss of jobs and livelihoods. While the pandemic has affected many people in society, the worst hit is low-income households and marginalized communities whose members depend on the meager income to support their families and feed their children (Dunn et al., 2020). While research is underway regarding the social and economic impact of COVID-19 and measures, more evidence is necessary to establish the pandemic’s actual impact on low-income households with school-age children.
The COVID-19 outbreak caused life-changing impacts across the world. In particular, measures implemented to control its spreading, such as economic lockdowns and social distancing, had economic (Arndt et al., 2020). Although the measures slowed down the spread of the virus, the affected businesses and jobs negatively. Many people lost their jobs, affecting their source of livelihoods. Parents of school-going children were among the most affected due to their job loss while they were expected to care for their children, most of whom were at home due to schools’ closure (Qian & Fuller, 2020). Many children were forced to remain home from school, depending on the federal nutrition safety net for at least one meal per day (Dunn et al., 2020). Moreover, parents from low-income families experienced dire effects as they could not afford meals or hospital bills for their children’s vaccination service (Arndt et al., 2020; Sangwan et al., 2020). Thus, although the implemented measures identified alternatives for some working-class people, such as working from home, they did not consider parents of school-age children who had lost their jobs and could not cater for their children who had returned home from closed schools. Hence, the current research seeks to identify these effects and possible solutions among low-income parents in the United States.
- How did the COVID-19 contribute to the loss of jobs among low-income parents of school-age children?
- What was the impact of COVID-19 on access to food among low-income parents of school-age children?
- How did COVID-19 prevent access to vaccination services among children of low-income parents?
Preview of Literature
Current literature focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures in place to control the spreading of the virus on low-income households with school-going children. The review is organized into main themes obtained from the research questions.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the current study is to understand the effect of COVID-19 on low-income households with school-going children. The disease affected families from two perspectives. The first is the closure of businesses and loss of jobs among low-income families with school-going children, hindering their ability to provide for their children (Venkatesh, 2020). The second impact was the inability to obtain the meals provided to their children while at school provided through the federal nutrition safety net (Dunn et al., 2020; Masonbrink & Hurley, 2020). Besides, many of the parents were unable to obtain immunizations for their children due to the negative effect of the disease (Dooley et al., 2020; Suwantika, Boersma, & Postma, 2020). Therefore, understanding how the pandemic affected the families and their children is critical is an important research endeavor during and in the post-pandemic period.
The study is qualitative exploratory research whose data will be collected from parents from low-income families with school-going children.
Significant of Research
The study will have a positive contribution to the current body of knowledge about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on families in the US and globally. The scholarly community is collecting data and evidence to understand the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of measures created by the government to control its spreading. Another group that will benefit from the results of the study is the counselling community involved in addressing psychological challenges emanating from the negative impact of the pandemic. Counseling practitioners will understand the effect of the pandemic and use the knowledge to create effective interventions to support the families and their school-going children. The pandemic caused huge psychological pressure and other health-related issues in the population (Chen et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020). Thus, the research findings will help practitioners to intervene successfully.
Review of Literature
The COVID-19 pandemic affected the entire world, spreading fast and creating changes in the lives of people. The pandemic resulted in the introduction of lockdown measures to curtail the spread that led to the closure of businesses and loss of jobs. Many individuals and families lost their income as a result. According to Arndt et al. (2020), the COVID-19 contagion presents nations with difficult policy decisions, resulting in implementing painful procedures, such as lockdowns that inflict a deleterious economic shock. However, the shock’s affliction is felt more by disadvantaged low-income families because of the lack of food caused by a breakdown in income sources (Arndt et al., 2020). In the US, poverty is higher among minority groups, including American Indians and Hispanics (Dooley, Bandealy, & Tschudy, 2020). The lockdown alone stimulates a huge decline in several industries’ supply and demand, including entertainment, restaurants, hotels, travel, and tourism. This aspect results in significant effects on production, market, and employment, triggering fear among investors, leading to decreased aggregate investment (Arndt et al., 2020). Since most low-income household personnel fall in the category of labor with low educational requirements and heavily depend on labor incomes, the level of real earnings shock is high. Conversely, people with higher educational attainments changed their work settings to their homes; they could receive some wages by working from home through virtual learning. Hence, without employment, individuals from destitute residents remained idle at home, without incomes to purchase food for their children.
Although several low-income homes lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, sex employment gaps amplified for parents of children in school. According to Qian and Fuller (2020), since 11/3/2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 as a calamity, working life for parents of younger children, the disease caused additional dilemmas as schools were closed. For single parents, especially women from low-income homes, the challenge of maintaining both caregiving and employment grew substantially (Qian & Fuller, 2020). These underprivileged women were the most hit during this misfortune because most of them worked in women-subjugated in-person facilities such as hotels, childcare, and restaurant jobs. Qian and Fuller (2020) argue that this disorder’s influence on gender inequality among low-income families, especially for the less educated parents, may continue to escalate even after the pandemic. In their findings, the authors discover that its gendered effect on parental employment is higher among families where parents have a secondary school or lower certificate (Qian & Fuller, 2020). This educational characteristic is common among low-earning households, confirming that most women with children in school have already lost their jobs. Hence, more women may lose their livelihoods because most companies are not yet ready to engage in more significant projects to generate more jobs.
In a similar study, Moore et al. (2020) evidence the economic effect of COVID-19 on low-income women with children. Just like Qian and Fuller (2020), Moore et al. (2020) argue that mothers with children attending school were the most vulnerable populace impacted by this pandemic. These women endure the primary accountability for their children; however, they are overrepresented in the low-salary occupations. The jobs include childcare employees, nurses, secretaries, housekeeping cleaners, maids, and the median yearly remunerations for these occupations lower than the populace-wide US median yearly returns (Moore et al., 2020). The enactment of public health recommendations to prevent the spread of this virus, including the requirement for people to remain indoors, negatively influences low-wage mothers. Before COVID-19, most women from the minority groups were already the main care provider for their children. Currently, millions of children do not go to school. Although several mothers may retain their same incomes, their family expenses have likely amplified, causing an overall net decrease in available wages for living expenses (Moore et al., 2020). As Dooley et al. (2020) verify, over 30 million children depend on school nutrition plans. With the unexpected closing of learning institutes due to COVID-19, emergency food aid reaches only a few teenagers. Besides, parents have to offer social support, including offering advice to their children, a stressful responsibility that was primarily left to the teachers before COVID-19. This aspect implies that parents from low-income families have to feed and clothe their children and offer counseling amenities to their teens, who are now staying at home, 24/7.
Several other mothers from low-income households may continue to encounter prolonged income loss and may experience challenges finding employment in the declined labor marketplaces. Besides, most parents from disadvantaged homes did not receive their paid leave compensations during the COVID-19 sickness. The latest federal-level figures demonstrate that low-salaried employees are less likely than high-wage workforces to receive paid family leave and sick leave advantages (Moore et al., 2020). Businesses that are least likely to pay leave benefits include food and hotel amenities, hospitality, cleaning, and retail services, disproportionally hiring low-income people, including mothers. As a result, low remunerated parents are more expected than higher salaried parents to encounter an amplification in parental depression and stress during this pandemic. Moore et al. (2020) illustrate that financial strain correlates with parental anxiety, especially for low-income parents with school-going children; “31.2% of parents earning 200% or below of the federal poverty level report they usually or always feel stressed, compared to only 6.9% of parents who earn 400% or more of the federal poverty level” (p.4). The catastrophe has even raised the fear among parents with school-age children that even if schools reopen soon, some adolescents may fail to return to school because of their high susceptibility to other diseases they have missed essential routine immunizations.
Sangwan, Sharma, and Gupta (2020) illustrate the influence of COVID-19 on regular vaccination schedules for younger children, particularly the five years and below. Different COVID-19 preventive procedures lessened its transmission; however, this calamity has disrupted the routine child and maternal health services, including vaccination. In most regions, children begin their school life at a relatively younger age (three to six years); these offspring require immunization to save their lives lost to inoculation-preventable disorders during this age. Families in high-wage families can take their youngsters to prominent hospitals for these vital injects. However, parents from low-income households, who already have lost their livelihood bases, cannot afford to accomplish this goal because of inadequate finance. This aspect has resulted in higher missed immunizations, which Lancet estimates would result in yearly 506,900 deaths of children in this age group, especially in low-income homes. Vaccines protect children against adverse childhood complications such as tetanus, whooping cough, polio, influenza, and measles. These conditions, especially measles, may escalate among school-going juveniles as the WHO projects that 117 million progenies are likely to miss measles inoculation (Sangwan et al., 2020). For instance, in India, due to the lockdown, the consequent joblessness has resulted in a heightened exodus of migrants, forcing them to abandon these immunization services. These actions increase the fear among low-income parents, as they are not guaranteed about their children’s future after COVID-19; hence, amplifying cases of psychological disorders across low-income families.
The COVID-19 emergency occurrence has caused more harm to low-income families with children attending school than any other group in the societies. As different scholars from the above literature analysis confirm these parents have lost their occupations because they must attend to their duties from home. As children no longer go to school, the household expenses have amplified, causing more anxiety among these parents because most of them have been sent on compulsory and uncompensated leave. Since most parents from underprivileged families, especially women, work in low-paying employments such as hotels, their livelihood sources have been lost because these jobs have been lost due to the lockdown measures. Besides, the level of parental stress has amplified during this COVID-19 pandemic, as parents have to achieve troubling responsibilities, such as advising their teenagers. Initially, these were teachers’ duties. These facets have significantly increased the level of unhappiness among low-income families across the world.
Regardless of the prevailing evidence of the impact of the pandemic on low-income families with children, the crisis is still underway and might even change its course. As a result, research on the actual impact of the pandemic in different groups, such as low-income households with school-going children remains inconclusive, leading to the need for further research. Exploratory research is most appropriate for the present study to understand the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
Although the social distancing theory not new, it has become highly relevant during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is a behavior change model that relates to disease prevention, especially in highly infectious diseases, such as the new coronavirus. The theory involves the need to maintain a social distance to reduce contact between infected and susceptible individuals. Social distancing practices are critical in the wake of an outbreak, such as COVID-19, since they prevent the infection and reduce the severity of the pandemic (Block et al., 2020; Lewnard & Lo, 2020). Nonetheless, the efficacy of social distancing depends on the extent to which people comply with the policy requirements. People are, in some cases, unwilling to suffer the cost of social distancing, which could limit the efficacy of the measures to combat transmission of the infectious disease (Maier & Brockmann, 2020). A differential-game theory can be used in understanding how people use social distancing effectively and associated self-protective behaviours in the wake of COVID-19. Furthermore, using a well-mixed ordinary differential equation model, it is possible to understand why social distancing is sometimes difficult due to the circumstances of the actors.
The cost of social distancing and the ability to pay is an essential factor in the willingness of individuals to comply. Generally, the cost is considerably high, taking into account the social and economic costs of policies, such as staying home. Therefore, many people are unlikely to have the resources to pay the cost. For example, remaining at home is challenging for people who depend on informal employment due to the high cost of the measures (Farboodi, Jarosch, & Shimer, 2020). The theory applies to asylum seekers, who depend on the government and available employment opportunities (which are seldom stable) to access their livelihood. Although the United Kingdom and other government and charitable organisations have tried to continue financial and social support for seeking asylum and refugees, social distancing could come at a very high cost for those with shared accommodation and cannot self-isolate (Kluge et al., 2020). Therefore, the group is at a higher risk of infection due to social distancing limitations.
Besides, asylum seekers depend on charity from different organizations, a cause that is currently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures to contain the pandemic. As a former asylum seeker and refugee, I have some insight and understanding of how vital are some of the services provided by charities. Since asylum seekers lack stable employment and support from the government usually is insufficient, they depend on charity organisations for support. I have been through the asylum process where I had to live on £35 a week and struggled to meet the day to day need, let alone to buy extra necessities, such as cleaning products. Therefore, in the wake of the pandemic, it is challenging for an asylum seeker to access the organisations for financial and social support (Bhopal, 2020). With social distancing for asylum seekers, it is challenging for them to use the services of many charities that support them. Charities have suspended their service or moved to telephone support, which is difficult for asylum seekers as they do not have phone or credit. Therefore, many fail to access livelihood, placing them at the risk of infection and lack of critical sources of livelihood. Generally, social distancing theory has major implications on asylum seekers, who are already a vulnerable population in the country (Kabir, Afzal, Khan, & Ahmed, 2020). They remain one of the worse affected groups in the wake of the pandemic.
Literature Review Constructs
- COVID-19 contributed to the loss of jobs among parents from low-income families with school-age children
- COVID-19 affected access to food among parents of low-income families for their children
- COVID-19 negatively affected access to vaccination services among school-age children of parents from low-income families
The dependent variable for the study is low-income households with school-age children (including the effects, such as job loss, access to food, and access to vaccination). At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic is the independent variable.
The study will be a qualitative phenomenology study, seeking to understand the consciousness structures as experienced by the target population.
The research will use an exploratory research approach, which explores the impact of the COVID-19 on various outcomes of the target population, such as job loss, access to food and access to vaccination. Exploratory research is appropriate for the study since it explores the phenomenon without the intention of proposing a solution or an answer. The study is simply mean to understand the phenomenon under study. For example, exploring the effect of the pandemic on low-income households with school-age children intends to understand the phenomenon and create a foundation for further research on the research problem.
The study will require an ethical approval of the institutional review board to ensure that it is conducted within an ethical framework. The approval involves affirmation that all ethical considerations are followed, such as informed consent, voluntary participation, and confidentiality. After the approval, the researcher will be ready to begin the study.
Researcher Subjectivity Statement
The researcher expects to establish the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and related measures to control it on low-income families with school-going children. The study will establish a high rate of job loss resulting from closure of businesses and other economic shocks. Low income families with school-going children will be worse affected due to loss of job while students are home and cannot access food and vaccination through government programs.
The participants for the study will be low-income parents of school-going children. The researcher will conduct a purposive sampling of 50 low-income parents of school-aged children. They will be voluntary participants and sign an informed consent before the data collection process begins.
The data collection instrument for the study will be an interview schedule, a list of questions for the participants to respond to. The researcher will use both closed- and open-ended questions to get detailed information as possible from the participants.
Being a qualitative study, the participants will be engaged in interviews and their feedback recorded through an audio recorder for transcription and analysis. Data analysis will be based on thematic content analysis to identify the main themes for results and discussions.
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Chen, S., Li, F., Lin, C., Han, Y., Nie, X., Portnoy, R. N., & Qiao, Z. (2020). Challenges and recommendations for mental health providers during the COVID-19 pandemic: the experience of China’s First University-based mental health team. Globalization and health, 16(1), 1-10.
Dooley, D.G., Bandealy, A., & Tschudy, M.M. (2020). Low-income children and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the US. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics. Retrieved from https://scihub.wikicn.top/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.2065
Dunn, C. G., Kenney, E., Fleischhacker, S. E., & Bleich, S. N. (2020). Feeding low-income children during the Covid-19 pandemic. New England Journal of Medicine, 382(18), e40.
Li, W., Yang, Y., Liu, Z. H., Zhao, Y. J., Zhang, Q., Zhang, L., … & Xiang, Y. T. (2020). Progression of mental health services during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. International journal of biological sciences, 16(10), 1732.
Masonbrink, A. R., & Hurley, E. (2020). Advocating for children during the COVID-19 school closures. Pediatrics, 146(3).
Moore, Q., Beebe, J., & Bakhiet, Z. (2020). Hidden figures: The economic impact of COVID-19 on low-income women and their children. Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Retrieved from https://www.bakerinstitute.org/media/files/files/5d1c67d4/bi-brief-040920-covid-econimpactmothers.pdf
Qian, Y., & Fuller, S. (2020). COVID-19 and the gender employment gap among parents of young children. Canadian Public Policy, 46(S2), S89-S101. Retrieved from https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cpp.2020-077
Sangwan, G., Sharma, A., & Gupta, M. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on routine immunization of under-5 children. International Journal of Health Systems and Implementation Research, 4(1), 112-115. Retrieved from https://ijhsir.ahsas-pgichd.org/index.php/ijhsir/article/view/87/86
Shah, S. G. S., & Farrow, A. (2020). A commentary on “World Health Organization declares global emergency: A review of the 2019 novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)”. International journal of surgery (London, England), 76, 128.
Suwantika, A. A., Boersma, C., & Postma, M. J. (2020). The potential impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the immunization performance in Indonesia.
Venkatesh, V. (2020). Impacts of COVID-19: A research agenda to support people in their fight. International Journal of Information Management, 55, 102197.