New Survey Finds COVID-19 Economic Impact Most Severe for Low-Income Adults and People of Color

A report from Pew Research Center, “Economic Fallout From COVID-19 Continues to Hit Lower-Income Americans the Hardest,” examines the economic toll that COVID-19 continues to take on U.S. households. The report finds that half of adults who lost jobs due to COVID-19 are still unemployed and that financial hardship is much more severe for those who lost their jobs. Those facing the highest rates of financial hardship include lower-income households and Black and Hispanic households.

The report includes data collected from Pew’s American Trends Panel (ATP), a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of adults in the United States. The current report contains data from 13,200 adults, collected in August 2020. Pew defines “lower-income” as two-thirds of the median annual family income among all survey respondents. For a family of three, lower-income households are those making less than $39,800 per year.

Approximately one in four adults have struggled to pay their bills since the onset of COVID-19, with rates differing widely across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. Forty-three percent of Black adults and 37% of Hispanic adults reported trouble paying bills since COVID-19 began. Further, 28% of Black and 26% of Hispanic adults had trouble paying rent or mortgage—rates more than double that of white adults at 11%.

Forty-six percent of lower-income adults reported having trouble paying bills, and 32% reported having problems paying their rent or mortgage. Lower-income adults also reported high rates of using money from savings and retirement accounts (44%), borrowing money from family/friends (35%), and receiving food from a food bank (35%).

Unemployment continues to affect many adults, 15% of whom reported that they personally became unemployed because of COVID-19. Of these, half remain unemployed. Forty-three percent of lower-income Americans have been able to return to work, compared to 58% of those in the middle and high-income groups. Many people who remained employed still took a financial hit amid COVID-19; 21% of adults who did not lose their job experienced a cut in pay.

Lastly, 36% of adults who are typically able to save money report saving less since the pandemic began. This is significantly higher for lower-income adults (51%), Black adults (46%), Hispanic adults (48%), and younger adults age 18-29 (47%).

The report can be found at: