The Impact of Coronavirus on Households Across America

Experiences and views on effects of the pandemic outbreak, with an aim to identify vulnerable populations in urgent need of government help or charitable aid.
A woman delivers a bag of food to another woman.

The coronavirus pandemic has had unprecedented, widespread impacts on households across America, raising concerns about our ability to weather long-term health and financial harms.

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The health and economic ramifications of COVID-19 are continuing to hit Black, Latino, and Native American households the hardest. This poll is the latest evidence that the ability to protect yourself or your family during the pandemic is to a significant and unconscionable degree determined by the color of your skin and how much money you have. Policymakers at all levels must act immediately to get additional financial resources and protections to communities and families that desperately need help. Unless equity is at the forefront of our policy response, the populations that have struggled the most will continue to be left behind.

Richard Besser, MD, RWJF President and CEO

 

While billions of dollars have been appropriated by federal and state governments since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, a series of polls by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation find that a substantial share of households have not been protected from serious impacts of the pandemic across many areas of residents' lives.

“The Impact of Coronavirus” poll series offers a national look at the problems emerging from the pandemic relating to household finances, jobs, health care, housing, transportation, caregiving, and well-being. Researchers interviewed 3,454 adults age 18 or older across the United States.

The first survey report in a series of five, "The Impact of Coronavirus on Households in Major U.S. Cities," shows that households in the four largest U.S. cities—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston—experienced widespread, serious financial and health problems since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. The findings reinforce the need for strong safety net supports that reach populations most deeply and disparately impacted by the pandemic.

The second survey report, "The Impact of Coronavirus on Households, By Race/Ethnicity," explored serious problems facing households in high-risk racial/ethnic groups across the nation during the coronavirus outbreak. In particular, findings highlight the experiences of Latino, Black, and Native American communities, who have all been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 with high rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Key Findings

  • At least half of households in the four largest U.S. cities—New York City (53%), Los Angeles (56%), Chicago (50%), and Houston (63%)—report serious financial problems including depleted savings, and trouble paying bills or affording medical care.

  • Many of these experiences are concentrated among Black and Latino households; households with annual incomes below $100,000; and households experiencing job or wage losses since the start of the outbreak.

  • Among Latino households, the most-reported serious financial problems include more than four in ten (46%) who report using up all or most of their savings, while an additional 15 percent volunteered they did not have any household savings prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

  • More than four in ten Black households (44%) report any adult household members have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had wages or hours reduced since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Nearly four in ten (38%) Native American households report they have missed or delayed paying major bills to ensure household members had enough to eat since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

 

About the Survey—The Impact of Coronavirus

NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted a five-part polling series between July and August 2020 to examine the most serious health and financial problems facing households across America prior to the expiration of federal coronavirus support programs. 

Coming soon—additional reports in the series:

  • The Impact of Coronavirus on Households with Children
  • The Impact of Coronavirus on Households in Rural America
  • The Impact of Coronavirus on Households Across America (a national summary report)