Amid the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), racially and economically marginalized communities experienced a disproportionate burden of disease and social consequences (e.g., unemployment, increased exposure). This study seeks to understand strategies that these communities employed to cope with unequal burdens of the pandemic.
We utilized qualitative data collected between 2020 and 2021 from a mobile mapping platform designed to facilitate real-time, geocoded data collection on individual’s experiences and perceptions of their neighborhoods. Reports were iteratively coded by an academic researcher and community partner. We employed an inductive approach to analysis, which allowed findings to emerge organically without constraint of researcher hypotheses.
A total of 19 respondents (14 under the age of 45, 16 non-White, 15 with less than half a year of emergency savings) provided 236 qualitative reports. Participants described innovative strategies for exchanging resources as a means of informally networking and building community, the importance of tailored programming (e.g., for specific racial/ethnic groups) in fostering belonging and comfort, and the importance of two specific dimensions of services—interactions with service providers and the quality of goods or services—in providing dignified care.
Amidst exacerbated racial and economic disparities emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, our study highlights the need for investment in mutual aid, the importance of tailored services and support, and promoting dignity in social services. As other macro-level social stressors become more prevalent as the pandemic continues, these findings can inform how we examine and address them.