Survey documents uneven impact of COVID-19 on California's communities of color

Consensus grows on need for new responses to domestic violence. 

SAN FRANCISCO (March 24, 2021) — Californians are unevenly experiencing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with people of color, particularly the Latinx community, feeling it most strongly, according to a new survey conducted by Blue Shield of California Foundation. In addition, the poll suggests the pandemic is worsening the factors that lead to domestic violence.

The statewide survey of nearly 2,000 California adults also showed that people from all backgrounds recognize domestic violence as a serious public issue and support alternatives to jail for those who cause harm.

“The pandemic is affecting all Californians, but the deep inequities that are being exposed and exacerbated highlight a huge divide, to the point that it is as if we are living in different Californias,” said Debbie I. Chang, MPH, president and CEO of the Foundation.

People of color — 43 percent of Black people and 38 percent of both Latinx and Asian American/Pacific Islanders — were most likely to say the pandemic and economic crisis have had a “major effect” on their family compared to 30 percent for white people. Half of all Californians reported generally feeling “unsafe” during the pandemic, with the highest levels reported by LGBTQ (64 percent), AAPI (55 percent), and Latinx (53 percent) residents. Seven in 10 Californians reported feelings of isolation, with LGBTQ individuals reporting the highest level of isolation at 78 percent.

Latinx Californians are faring worse than any other surveyed groups along many measures. More than eight in 10 Latinx individuals reported at least one of a range of negative impacts. Around three in 10 Latinx individuals said their income went down, they or a family member got COVID-19, they had to use savings to pay bills, or they had to go to a job even though they felt unsafe. Six in ten Latinx respondents (63 percent) reported feeling closer to their families since the COVID-19 pandemic started. They are also one of the groups that is least likely to say they have been feeling isolated since the beginning of COVID-19 (67 percent), suggesting multigenerational households common in the Latinx community may be a protective factor against feelings of isolation.

On domestic violence, nine out of 10 (91 percent) of Californians agreed that it is a serious societal issue. When asked whether domestic violence is more of a public or a private issue, two-thirds (67 percent) agree it is a public issue.

“We are encouraged that the recognition of domestic violence as a community concern and a public issue will help create momentum for lasting solutions to this complex multigenerational problem,” Chang said. “Domestic violence has a major impact on health and is interrelated to many deeply rooted social problems such as poverty and homelessness. Prevention requires new strategies that directly involve the individuals and communities affected in creating solutions.”

The survey confirms that childhood experience matters when it comes to domestic violence. More than a quarter of Californians said they experienced abuse or witnessed domestic violence as a child. More than seven in 10 (71 percent) of those who experienced or witnessed domestic violence in childhood said they were also touched by domestic violence as adults — either as victims, abusers, or through close friends of family members. More than a third (34 percent) experienced domestic violence themselves as adults, and 9 percent said they committed abuse against a romantic partner compared to 5 percent of all California adults.

Californians strongly support alternatives to jail for those who cause domestic violence, with eight in 10 agreeing that counseling, supervision, and restitution could be better solutions than jail time. Agreement with these ideas is widespread and strongest among LBGTQ individuals.

Most Californians, led by Black and LGBTQ adults, also strongly support assistance for those who have experienced domestic violence, such as help with child care (62 percent), food (60 percent), housing (58 percent), and transportation (54 percent).

These views are consistent with recent public policy recommendations for how California can prevent domestic violence by increasing social supports and promoting the expansion of restorative justice and other alternatives to law enforcement responses. Domestic violence survivors themselves identified a safe place to live (91 percent) as very important to feeling safe, followed by financial stability (88 percent), personal freedom (83 percent) and a steady job (80 percent).

Beyond the pandemic, survey respondents were also asked their views on race in California. Most said they believed that racism has increased in recent years (62 percent) and that institutional systems in America give whites more opportunity (59 percent). The feeling that racism has increased is strongest among Black (75 percent), Latinx (69 percent), and LGBTQ (68 percent) residents. Almost half of Black Californians surveyed do not feel accepted as an equal and valuable member of society, and 54 percent said police sometimes made them feel unsafe in their community.

Fear of police spills over into the response to domestic violence. While two-thirds of Californians say the police would help if they were assaulted by a spouse or intimate partner, nearly half of Black adults say police would make the situation worse or they would not call the police.

“The Foundation is committed to creating lasting and equitable solutions to make California the healthiest state and to end domestic violence,” Chang added. “We are encouraged that state residents see domestic violence as a public health issue. New approaches to preventing it hinge on understanding that domestic violence is an intergenerational problem that impacts health and requires both personal healing and changes to interrelated societal conditions that perpetuate the problem. Ending domestic violence includes creating economic security and mobility for women with low incomes and helping them with housing alternatives.”

The statewide survey of 1,918 adults was conducted Jan. 6-22, 2021, and offered in English, Chinese, Tagalog, and Spanish by the research firm PerryUndem in partnership with Ipsos on behalf of the Foundation, which supports the collection and use of data to draw attention to and to address crucial issues that impact health.

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About Blue Shield of California Foundation

Blue Shield of California Foundation supports lasting and equitable solutions to make California the healthiest state and end domestic violence. When we work together to remove the barriers to health and well-being, especially for Californians most affected, we can create a more just and equitable future. For more information, visit: and check us out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Press contacts:

Blue Shield of California Foundation: Rachael Kagan, rachael.kagan [at], (510) 227-7665

The Reis Group: Beth Casteel, bcasteel [at], (202) 868-4007