Though the Covid national emergency has officially ended, the impacts of the worldwide Covid crisis will be felt for generations. Today, the National Conference on Citizenship, in partnership with Fair Count and the Southern Economic Advancement Project released the latest Pandemic to Prosperity: South report, an overview of the Covid-related impacts on Southerners’ lives and livelihoods, governments, civic institutions, and overall well-being. Some new key findings in the report can be found below.
- DEATHS: In 2020-2021, there were 1.6 million excess deaths in the U.S. as compared with western Europe where the Covid response was more comprehensive, and health care is more widely available. MS had the highest death rate in the nation in 2020-2021, followed by WV, AL, KY, LA, and TN. In 2021, over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, with KY, LA, WV and TN experiencing the highest rates of all U.S. states.
- ECONOMY: The nation has reached a record 155.6 million jobs, but employers struggle to find workers as Long-Covid and drug addiction have sidelined hundreds of thousands. White men and older white women are more likely to have dropped out of the labor force, while opportunities are expanding for Black adults. In March, Black adults were employed at higher rates than white adults for the first time since this data started to be collected. Nonetheless, the labor market will remain tight with hundreds of thousands fewer workers due to excess deaths.
- COST OF HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS: Americans are contending with recent spikes in groceries and gasoline prices but tuition, health care, and rent costs have also risen steeply since 2005. Rising housing costs have meant only 50% of those born in the 1980s achieved homeownership by the time they reached 35 years old, compared to 60% of Americans born in the 1960s. And rents have been increasing such that 1 in 4 renters nationwide has to spend the majority of their pre-tax household income on housing, limiting their ability to consider starting a family. New parents have also had to grapple with childcare costs that today are 3 times higher than in 1990.
- YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH: Surveys show that the pandemic has exacerbated the growing youth mental health crisis. From 2011–2021, the share of high school students that experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, seriously considered suicide, or attempted suicide increased by 50%, 38%, and 25%, respectively. Reports of worsening mental health and suicidality were highest among female and LGBTQ+ students.
- U.S. HOUSE ELECTION COMPETITIVENESS: In the 2022 election, only 13% of the seats for the U.S. House of Representatives were competitive (won by a margin of less than 8%), continuing a decline in competitive districts. Half of all states had no competitive House races and, in the South, only 6% (7 of 112 seats) were competitive. Higher levels of electoral competition have been shown to increase voter turnout as well as future political engagement. Additionally, competitive elections tend to generate more outreach to voters and political information, resulting in a more politically informed and energized electorate.