Survey: Nearly half of American households facing ‘serious financial problems’ in the pandemic

Posted at 11:45 AM, Sep 11, 2020

Half, or more, of households in America’s largest cities report facing “serious financial problems during the coronavirus pandemic,” according to new survey results. These problems include having to deplete their savings, unable to pay full rent, etc.

The surveyincluded responses from more than 3,400 people in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston over the course of July 1 through August 3. It was conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in partnership with NPR and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In all four cities, at least 53 percent of households reported facing serious financial problems; between 35 to 40 percent of those people said they had used up all or most of their savings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Latino and Black households were more likely to have financial problems, according to the survey, with responses about ten to 15 percentage points higher than the city’s average.

In addition, 54 percent of those households making less than $100,000 a year reported having financial problems during the pandemic. By comparison, only 20 percent of those households making more than $100,000 a year reported issues.

The study’s authors say the results show personal financial challenges run deeper than previously understood. "I would have expected that all the aid that was coming from various sources would have narrowed, not eliminated, the differences by race and ethnicity," but it did not, said Robert Blendon, professor emeritus of health policy and political analysis at Harvard and co-author of the survey.

The study’s authors remind readers the survey was done during a time when the federal government was offering $600 a week in additional unemployment benefits. Those payments were not renewed after July. Although some states are offering additional money now, that has only just started.

“These findings raise important concerns about households’ abilities to weather long-term financial and health effects of the coronavirus outbreak, as a large share have depleted their savings and are having major problems paying for basic costs of living, including food, rent, and medical care,” the study concludes.

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