Dr. Robert L. Hawkins Explores Coping and Surviving Strategies of Low-Income African Americans During COVID-19
By NYU Silver Communications OfficeDec 17, 2020
Study is funded by a Seed Grant from the School’s Office for Research
McSilver Associate Professor in Poverty Studies and Assistant Dean and Director of Undergraduate Programs Robert L. Hawkins has launched a new study investigating how African Americans are coping with and surviving the COVID-19 pandemic in cities like New Orleans, and what policies may be most effective at addressing their needs. The project is being funded by a Small Seed Fund grant from NYU Silver’s Office for Research.
Dr. Hawkins previously conducted research with low-income communities of color in New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Those studies focused on the idea of poverty as trauma, and addressed the link between social position, negative life events, and social capital usage among low-income individuals and families. His new study, entitled “Coping and Surviving Strategies: Low-income African Americans and COVID-19,” builds on that research to examine how African American communities affected by COVID-19 have managed their lives during the pandemic, while continuing to experience interpersonal and structural racism and poverty.
The study will employ both content analysis and grounded study approaches. Dr. Hawkins explained, “l will gather data from information sources used by African Americans in New Orleans ‒ from social media (i.e. ‘Black Twitter’), to local, regional, and national media – to understand and respond to COVID-19. I will then conduct a series of virtual and, if safety allows, in-person, individual and focus group interviews with African American-identified residents of New Orleans and surrounding parishes to elicit their experiences of prior race-based negative life events and how they operate as risk or protective factors regarding pandemic coping and survival. These analyses will be used to map ‘successful’ vs. ‘unsuccessful’ coping strategies to inform a model of COVID-19 prevention and intervention with low-income African Americans that can be further honed with communities around the country.”
Dr. Hawkins’ study will address a significant gap in the research. “The confluence of COVID-19 disease, African American health, poverty, and racism has been described as ‘the perfect storm,’” he said, noting that African Americans are disproportionately at risk of developing COVID-19 due to their higher prevalence of preexisting conditions as well as their greater likelihood than whites to have inadequate access to health care, live in poverty, and hold service-level jobs that place them on the front lines. “Nowhere is the disproportionality more apparent than in the City of New Orleans and its surrounding parishes, a majority-Black city which has some of the country’s highest rates of poverty and COVID-related deaths,” he said. “Yet little is known about how African Americans in New Orleans and similar cities are coping with and surviving the pandemic and what ought to be done to support them.”