COVID-19 has greatly transformed life in the US. Most were forced to live in isolation during the pandemic, and countless Americans contracted it or sorrowfully lost family members – 975,000 of them. The economic hardships left millions unemployed and without employer-sponsored healthcare. Frontline workers had to bravely continue going to their jobs, while others shifted to working remotely. Schools became digital classrooms, resulting in parents facing a double duty of childcare and employment. Despite such a bleak outlook, first responders and medical care providers worked around the clock in efforts to save lives. Sadly, life expectancy decreased substantially for Black and Latino American citizens.

In a recent Brookings survey conducted by IPSOS, 1,015 respondents were asked to reflect on the less obvious but lasting effects of COVID-19 over the last two years. The survey focused on Americans’ relationships since the start of the pandemic, their sense of autonomy, and what type of assistance they would require to make their families’ ambitions come true. Data filtered by age and income can be obtained here; gender, race, and employment data can be accessed here.

According to our research, women, young people, and Black and Latinx Americans have been particularly affected by the pandemic. Policy that supports better well-being is particularly needed by these groups and people earning less than $50,000 a year. COVID-19 has had some of the most lasting effects on American life for over two years. Here are three important insights into those experiences.


Lose of control over life

Our survey revealed a concerning truth: many Americans, particularly women, feel that they lack control in their lives. This was observed even among those without children at home, hinting at other factors that could be involved. Interestingly, the greatest feeling of loss of control came from white women (almost 28%), followed by Latinas (20%) and Black women (almost 13%). More than a quarter of 18-34 year olds also felt this way.

Our male respondents also felt a loss of control over their lives. About 19% of them reported feeling less in control of their lives, and this result held true whether or not they had children. In contrast to 25% of Latinos who felt they had no control over their lives, 18% of white men and slightly more than 6% of Black men felt the same way.


Support is still needed for families

Secondly, American families feel they need more help to support their aspirations. The top three needs were income, healthcare, and quality jobs. Also, Black women reported they needed more food support than other women.

Over half of our sample (53%) stated that they needed more income. The need for support was most acute among those earning less than $25,000 (63%), however, nearly half of our respondents earning $75,000 or more still expressed a need for support. In addition, 60% of respondents from Black and Latinx backgrounds said they needed more income.

As Americans indicate that they continue to struggle with inadequate healthcare, our survey suggests that the pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our healthcare and public health infrastructure. Our survey found that about 20% of our Black respondents and 27% of our Latinx respondents needed better healthcare to support their families. A survey of people aged 18-34 and those earning less than $50,000 found that better healthcare was also needed by 30%.

In its early stages, the pandemic was also particularly devastating to people living in crowded quarters, as we know. In particular, adequate housing remains a challenge for Black and Latinx households, with 18% of Black and 22% of Latinx respondents identifying better housing as a need.

Our survey found that 18% of Black women continued to need support for adequate food during the early months of the pandemic, the highest percentage of our sample.

Almost 30% of Latinx respondents in our survey said they needed a quality job as a needed support before the pandemic began. It is clear that Latinx and Black households need quality jobs more than anyone else two years into the pandemic. Nearly 18% of Black women in our sample also said they needed quality jobs to support their families. It’s clear that Latinx and Black households have the most pressing need for quality jobs two years into the pandemic.

Specifically for Latinx and Black families and low-income Americans, increased income, healthcare, quality jobs, and better housing remain important needs.


The support networks have changed, but not as much as we expected

We asked if and why support networks had changed for Americans, and the results were somewhat comforting. Two-thirds of those we surveyed said there had been no change; of those who experienced a shift, half attributed it to health, financial or childcare/eldercare issues. Another heartening point was that Black women and those between 18-24 seemed to be increasing their social networks, with 20% and 30%, respectively. We can’t know what will happen in the coming months but perhaps we can be hopeful.


Opportunities for policy

It is not surprising that Americans are changed by more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the new era of endemic COVID-19, policymakers at every level can contribute to Americans’ greater well-being in two ways. Our survey indicates there are two ways policymakers can help Americans create a new normal.

In order to address this issue, policymakers should be prepared to improve healthcare access in all communities, since many Americans feel they lack control over their lives. In states where Medicaid has not yet been expanded, expand Medicaid and use ARP funds to provide affordable, quality, and culturally appropriate health and mental health services for low-income communities and communities of color.

Furthermore, policymakers should use ARP, infrastructure funds, and other investments to ensure affordable housing and easy pedestrian access to amenities in order to boost quality, family-sustaining jobs.

In the post-COVID-19 U.S., let’s ensure everyone, including the most vulnerable, is on the path to healing.