A Pandemic within a Pandemic: How Coronavirus and Systemic Racism Are Harming Infants and Toddlers of Color

By Stephanie Schmit, Rebecca Ullrich, and Katherine Gallagher Robbins

Even before the pandemic, far too many infants, toddlers, and their families faced significant adversity during the early critical years. These challenges stem from centuries of policies that excluded and disregarded people of color, many of which still exist today. The alarming disparities in health outcomes and economic stability, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, are a direct result of systemic racism in policies—a public health crisis in its own right.   

This brief unpacks the impacts of systemic racism on children’s development and describes how the coronavirus pandemic has magnified pervasive inequities in health, education, employment, and other factors across race and ethnicity. Programs that help families meet their basic needs urgently need immediate shoring up. And policymakers must prioritize families of color who are most harmed by the coronavirus. We make the case for focusing on the needs of families of color with infants and toddlers in coronavirus relief and systemic policy reform efforts to ensure that policies do not continue or add to inequities.