College Columns June 2021 - Page 16

Housing Insecurity in the Post-Pandemic World

by Susan Block-Lieb , Scholar in Residence , ACB and Cooper Family Professor in Urban Legal Issues , Fordham Law School
Lots of people acquired dogs and cats and other pets during the pandemic – to provide company ; to calm nerves ; to feel less self-conscious about taking four walks a day – but my husband and I adopted Charlie Precious Paws from a local rescue agency this past weekend . Getting a dog was something we ’ d been planning for a while ; timing this acquisition was trickier than we thought it would be . Although we were sheltering in place in the Berkshires of westernmost Massachusetts , we knew that was only a temporary home . We wanted to settle fully into our new residence and our new post-pandemic reality before changing everything again by adding a dog to the mix .
We had the luxury , in other words , of emerging from last year by turning our backs on the past and striding into the future with our newly reconfigured family . Not everyone will be as lucky as us .
Millions of Americans lost their jobs as a result of COVID-related constrictions of the economy . Unemployment levels soared between February and April 2020 ( from below 4 to slightly above 14.8 percent ). Since then , the unemployment rate has improved considerably – by the end of April 2021 , the rate had decreased to 6.1 percent . Still , the current 6.1 percent unemployment rate remains 50 percent higher today than
the historically low unemployment rates that had hovered below 4 percent between April 2019 and February 2020 .
Moreover , national unemployment rates continue to hide disparities on the basis of gender , race , age , and educational attainment . Although the unemployment rate for adult women shifted recently and is now , perhaps surprisingly , slightly better than that for adult men ( 5.6 percent as compared to 6.1 percent ), teen unemployment is twice as high as the national unemployment rate ( 12.3 versus 6.1 percent ). Unemployment rates for Blacks ( 9.7 percent ) and Hispanics ( 7.9 percent ) are also significantly higher than the national average ( 6.1 percent ). Most predictive of unemployment is educational attainment , however , College graduates ( 3.5 percent ) are roughly half as likely to be unemployed as those with some college experience ( 5.8 percent ) and high-school graduates ( 6.9 percent ). Workers without a high school diploma are nearly three times as likely to be unemployed as those with 4-year college degrees or more ( 9.3 percent versus 3.5 percent ).
Disparities in unemployment mean that , while many are returning to work and an otherwise financially stable U . S . economy is set to open fully this summer , some Americans continue to exist on the precipice of financial disaster .
One indicator of this economic insecurity is provided by the Household Pulse Survey conducted by U . S . Census Bureau over the past year or so . In the most recent survey