Immigrant Family Financial and Relationship Stress From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Catherine A. Solheim, Jaime E Ballard, Nusroon Fatiha, Zamzam Dini, Gretchen J Buchanan, Soyoul Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


We tend to overlook immigrant families in policy and program discussions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet they are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of this continuing crisis. This study examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrant families in an upper Midwest state. We interviewed 19 human and social service providers from agencies serving Somali, Latinx, and Karen (refugees from Burma/Myanmar) immigrant families between June and August 2020. Results analyzed for this paper focused on responses to questions asked about COVID-19-related financial and familial stress, and coping resources and constraints that providers were observing with their immigrant clients. Guided by the Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response Model (Patterson, 1988), we identified a pile-up of financial and relationship stressors including employment, housing, and family relationship strains, and resource access constraints. We found that job loss in already financially vulnerable immigrant families was particularly impactful. Housing insecurity soon followed. Immigrant families also faced significant constraints to resource access including lack of documentation, fear of making a mistake, language barriers, and lack of technology skills. We identified family and community resources that families used to meet demands, coping strategies, and glimmers of resilience. As we near the end of the pandemic, we urge family researchers to monitor long-term effects of the crisis on immigrant families. Findings can inform the creation of programs and policies that address immigrant family needs for resources and culturally relevant services to support their financial recovery post-COVID.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-295
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply.


  • COVID-19
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Immigrant families
  • Immigrant family finances
  • Stress and coping

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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