In New Survey, Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Lost Household Income Due to COVID-19

The Pew Research Center released a summary of a national survey conducted April 7-12, which found that 52% of lower-income Americans report that they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a pay cut due to COVID-19. Overall, 43% of adults in the U.S. report lost household income, up from 33% in the last two weeks of March. The data show racial disparities, with Black and Hispanic respondents more likely than their white counterparts to experience job loss or pay cut.

The survey is part of Pew’s Americans Trends Panel, a nationally representative sample of randomly selected adults stratified by age, ethnicity, and education. A total of 4,917 panelists, or 81% of those sampled, completed the survey in April. The report divides respondents into three income tiers: lower-income households with incomes below two-thirds of area median income (AMI); middle-income households with incomes between two-thirds and 200% of AMI; and upper-income households with incomes above 200% AMI.

Among all respondents, 28% reported that they or someone in their household had been laid off or lost a job due to COVID-19, while 33% reported that they or someone in their household had to take a cut in pay. Forty-three percent reported experiencing at least one of the two. Among lower-income households, job loss and pay cuts were more common: 39% reported job loss, 41% reported a pay cut, and 52% had experienced at least one. Job disruption varied by race: 38% of white respondents had experienced a job loss or pay cut, compared to 44% of Black respondents and 61% of Hispanic respondents.

The survey asked respondents how they planned to use stimulus money and whether they had a rainy-day fund for emergencies. Lower-income households were more likely to be using a stimulus check to pay bills or essential needs: 71% of lower-income households planned to use the majority of the money for bills, compared to 49% of middle-income households and 34% of upper-income households. Only 23% of lower-income households reported having a rainy-day fund that could cover expenses for three months. Emergency savings rates varied by race: 53% of white respondents affirmed they had a rainy-day fund, compared to only 29% of Hispanic respondents and 27% of Black respondents.

When asked about their financial concerns, lower-income respondents were twice as likely as upper-income respondents to worry regularly about making ends meet. Among lower-income respondents, 59% reported worrying daily about paying their bills, 51% worried daily about their debt, and 47% worried daily about the cost of health care for their families. These concerns are not new.

The full report can be accessed here: