Nearly 7 in 10 adults who experience judgment or unfair treatment while applying for public benefits report related adverse consequences, including delayed receipt of benefits.
People of color experience unfair treatment or judgment when applying for public benefits at higher rates than White adults, which can often lead to material hardship. The Urban Institute's April 2021 Health Reform Monitoring Survey found that non-White adults were twice as likely to report facing unfair treatment or judgment because of their race or ethnicity compared to White adults.
Researchers analyzed the demographics of individuals experiencing unfair treatment or judgement and the resulting consequences:
8.6 percent of non-elderly adults whose families never applied or received public benefits reported unfair treatment because of their race or ethnicity when applying. Demographically, this breaks down to 15.8 percent of Black adults, 11.9 percent of adults of additional races, 9.1 percent of Hispanic/Latina adults, and 6.0 percent of White adults.
71.8 percent of those who experienced unfair judgement reported adverse consequences or took action to address their poor treatment, such as filing a complaint. The most common outcomes included not receiving needed benefits (49.3%), looking for other ways to apply for benefits (45.2%), and delays in receiving benefits (44.3%).
Researchers report that the following practices may help prevent or mitigate such consequences in the future: emphasizing professionalism and training to improve benefit providers’ interactions with clients; changing providers’ incentive structure to encourage a customer service orientation; strengthening community-based enrollment options; and streamlining application processes so applicants face fewer hurdles and potentially negative interactions.
Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views
This series of reports from NPR, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and RWJF includes findings from surveys that ask people about their own personal experiences with discrimination.