High-poverty ZIP codes hurting most for food, rent during COVID-19

April 12, 2020

People living in high poverty ZIP codes make up 10% of the population but account for 39% of all requests for food assistance during COVID-19. They also account for a disproportionate share of requests for help with rent or mortgage payments. We examined over 50,000 requests for food, rent and mortgage assistance received by 2-1-1 helplines during the first four weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, March 12 – April 9, and analyzed them by ZIP code. High poverty ZIP codes were those with ≥ 25% of residents living in poverty, mid-poverty ZIP codes had 5 to <25% in poverty, and low poverty ZIP codes had <5% in poverty. In an unexpected finding, analyses also showed that although people in low-poverty ZIP codes make relatively few requests to 2-1-1, their rate of help-seeking for rent and mortgage payments has doubled since COVID-19, the highest rate of increase of the three ZIP code groups. Mouse over the chart icons to see these rates. Analyses examined seven states: AL, MI, MO, NJ, NY, PA and WI. Data sources and credits: 211 Counts, Washington University in St. Louis, U.S. Census Bureau 2014-2018 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates.

Contributors:  Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter, Enguday Teshome, Jennifer Wolff