Featured Research: "Black & Essential: Coping Strategies and Narratives of Black Baton Rouge, Louisiana Residents during COVID-19"

LSU's Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs has teamed up with former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s E Pluribus Unum organization on new research that studies the lived experience of COVID-19’s Black residents and essential workers throughout the Baton Rouge metro area.

Existing data demonstrates that COVID-19 impacts Black Americans at higher rates than other racial groups, but the narratives and lived experiences of Black individuals navigating society, particularly as essential workers amid COVID-19, are often absent from conversations. Lead investigator David Stamps, Ph.D., an assistant professor in strategic communication at the Manship School of Mass Communication and a Reilly Center research affiliate, took a deeper look at the personal stories surrounding Baton Rouge’s communities of color during the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Executive Summary & Topline Report Full Report Press Release

Key Takeaways from the Report

  • Black Baton Rouge residents, similar to many other Black populations across the United States, have been hit the hardest compared to their racial counterparts, by the pandemic.
  • Based on findings, it becomes clear that access to resources, including use of new media technologies, are crucial in supporting the community.
  • These findings suggest that increasing digital literacies and accessibility (e.g. the use of debit card, SNAP and EBT online) and mitigating the digital divide, would help support communities, as they seek to utilize digital spaces, such as shopping online and telemedical services, to order supplies and medications.
  • The data demonstrate that financial support, directed toward individuals and local small businesses and nonprofits, is crucial, as is support from family, community members and local organizations, including churches.

Key Findings from the Report

Three hundred twenty-two (322) Black Baton Rouge residents answered an open and closed-ended questionnaire. Of the sample, 48% identified as male, 49% identified as female and 3% as non-gender binary. Forty-nine percent (49%) of the sample held a college degree (associate degree or higher), and the average age was 35, ranging from 18 to 76 years of age.

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Black Baton Rouge Residents In the Home

Forty-five percent (45%) of respondents have someone in their household with a serious health condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease or cancer. Eighteen percent (18%) of respondents have someone in their household that works in a health care setting. Forty-five percent (45%) of respondents have someone in their household employed in a position identified as essential work.


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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Family Support

Fifty percent (50%) of respondents reported having supported family financially before the pandemic, and since COVID-19, there is a reported two percent (2%) increase among respondents who now support family members financially.


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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Family Dynamics

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of households have multiple generations, including grandparents, living together. Eight percent (8%) of respondents stated that family members or friends have moved into their homes since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average of two additional people moving in.


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Black Baton Rouge Residents, Emotional & Practical Support

Participants noted that during the pandemic, there is increased reliance on familial and community support, primarily using technology to call, text, FaceTime or use Zoom. This level of communication was aimed toward checking on the emotional well-being of family and community members and aiding in helping others seek vital information on navigating the pandemic, including locating resources such as masks. 


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Black Baton Rouge Residents & Expressed Community Needs

Roughly fifteen percent (15%) of participants stated the need for monetary support in the form of cash and supplies, such as toiletries, from both family, community members and organizations. Open-ended questions aided in offering narratives among respondents that shed light on the needs of Black Baton Rouge residents. For example, a 25-year-old female shared, “My elderly neighbor is an EBT recipient. I try to do most of her shopping for her. But [the government] should put in the work to allow EBT recipients to use their benefits online." Also, a 38-year-old female shared, “There needs to be better access to medical care and special transportation for the elderly in our community.”


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Black Baton Rouge Residents Housing & Medical Care

Thirty-three percent (33%) of respondents mentioned that there was not enough money “once in a while,” in the household for rent or mortgage pre-COVID. That figure rose by four percent (4%) since the pandemic.


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Lead Investigator

David Stamps

Dr. David Stamps
Assistant Professor in Strategic Communication 

Learn More about Dr. Stamps