New study wins national award for providing insight that can help shape future programs for Latino and other immigrant families


A new study exploring the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latina mothers in rural Midwestern meat-packing communities can help inform the approach and development of future programs that aim to assist Latino and other immigrant families.

“This work offers insights to researchers, practitioners and policy makers about concerns experienced by this specific group and provides insight about the best way to share information with members of this community,” said Ebony Williams, the paper’s lead author, Iowa State University alum and Assistant Professor of Practice at Louisiana State University.

As one of the few papers that investigated the experiences of Latino workers in rural Midwestern communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers found incomes of families decreased because of reduced work hours, layoffs or being required to take time off without pay.

Some mothers were so worried about the negative consequences of being infected, they chose not to be tested. Many delayed paying bills or borrowed money to pay for necessities like food, rent, clothing, school supplies and medicine.

“This study resurfaced the reality that immigrant and other minoritized families continue to be harmed most during times of crisis and are commonly left out of policy and program decisions that directly affect them,” said Kimberly Greder, co-author of the paper, Iowa State University Morrill Professor and Extension Family Wellbeing State Specialist.

“Findings suggest mothers and their spouses or partners were often viewed as tools to accomplish work. Their health, wellbeing and safety were not at the forefront of their employers’ minds. In contrast, family health, safety and security were at the forefront of mothers’ minds and they actively sought out and took steps to protect their families,” said Greder.

To cope during the pandemic, mothers relied on their belief that God would protect their families. The study also found that mothers valued advice from health professionals and took steps to protect their families from infection such as cleaning and disinfecting their homes, frequently washing their hands and taking off their clothing in the garage when they came home from work.

Mothers obtained information about the virus from family, friends, coworkers, media outlets and health facilities. Specific to media and internet sources, over 77% sought COVID-19 information on Spanish television networks and a little less than half received information from Facebook. The study provides further details about sought-after information sources.

Williams was honored with the Outstanding Doctoral Student and New Professional Paper Award by the National Council on Family Relations at their annual conference in November for her work on this study.

“This honor means a lot to me. At the age of 38, I made the decision to leave a career of 15 plus years to pursue an interest in family science. Within my time as a PhD student at ISU, that interest has developed into a passion for learning more about the experiences of families from marginalized groups in the United States. This honor reaffirms my decision to prioritize my interest in family science and my work with African American and Latinx families,” shared Williams.

Ebony Williams, Iowa State alum and lead author on the study, accepts the Outstanding Doctoral Student and New Professional Paper Award by the National Council on Family Relations at the organization’s annual conference.

Study Information

The paper, Navigating health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: Experiences of Latina immigrant mothers in rural Midwestern communities, used Mundane Extreme Environmental Stress theory as a foundation and was based on data from The Latino Family Health Project. This is a USDA Hatch funded Agricultural Experiment Station project led by Greder.

Additional co-authors on the paper include: Dahee Kim, Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Central Florida, College of Nursing; Juan Bao, Assistant Research Scientist, University of Iowa, College of Public Health and graduate student, Naomi Dan Karami.


Ebony Williams, PhD
Assistant Professor of Practice
School of Social Work/ Human Development and Family Sciences Program
Louisiana State University
College of Human Sciences and Education

Kimberly Greder
Morrill Professor
Extension Family Wellbeing State Specialist
Iowa State University
College of Human Sciences, Department of Human Development and Family Studies