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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Understanding and Reducing Inequalities During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shocks to not only health systems, but also to the economy, financial stability, health insurance, education and childcare. Low-income and minority families have been disproportionately impacted by pandemic impact on employment, income, health insurance and social safety net benefits. Wisconsin children, especially racial and ethnic minorities, may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Early reports indicate that critical preventative health and treatment services for mothers and children are being missed, which may negatively affect short and long-term health. Moreover, parental stress and loss of economic resources may influence child maltreatment and safety.

This project utilizes unique administrative linked data, Wisconsin Administrative Core Data and Big Data for Little Kids, and several empirical approaches to leverage quasi-experimental timing in county stay-at-home orders and school closures on a number of important health and safety outcomes for mothers and children.

Two goals are to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis for families with young children on (1) individual job loss, earnings losses, and social safety net benefit enrollment; (2) outcomes for maternal/child health (early prenatal care, well-child visits, and immunizations) and child safety (child maltreatment reports and high-risk ED visit). For each aim, the study considers population effects and effects across race/ethnicity. These results will shed light on important labor, health and safety outcomes for families with young children as well as racial/ethnic disparities impacted by COVID-19 and contribute actionable policy evidence to support low-income families.


Christine Durrance, associate professor of public affairs in the La Follette School of Public Affairs

Jessica Pac, assistant professor of social work


Deborah Ehrenthal, professor of population health sciences and obstretics/gynecology