The Economic Costs of COVID-19

By Kate Raphael

The measures taken in the United States in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus have dire economic consequences, the worst the country has seen since the Great Depression. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and many Americans find themselves unable to provide for their basic needs. However, this hardship has affected the U.S. population differently and some adults have felt the effects more acutely.

Recently, the Urban Institute conducted a nationally representative, internet-based survey of adults ages 18 to 64 between March 25 and April 10 to examine the effects of the pandemic on families’ employment and ability to meet essential needs. They also examined disparities in how the economic impacts were felt by family income and race/ethnicity. You can read the whole report here, but in brief, here’s what they found.

Key Findings

41.5 percent of adults reported that their families have lost jobs, work hours, or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak. These losses were most prevalent among families of Hispanic adults (56.9%) and adults with incomes below poverty level (51.1%).

Overall, 30.6 percent of adults reported that their families reduced spending on food, 43.1 percent put off major purchases, and 27.9 percent drew down savings or increased credit card debt. Among adults in families that lost work or income, 46.5 percent reduced spending on food, 58.1 percent put off major purchases, and 43.9 percent tapped savings or increased credit card debt.

31 percent of all adults, and 42 percent of adults in families that lost work or income, reported being unable to pay the rent or mortgage, unable to pay utility bills, being food insecure, or going without medical care in the past month. More than two-thirds (68.6%) of adults with family incomes below poverty level and more than 45 percent of black and Hispanic adults reported that their families experienced one or more of these hardships.

Looking ahead to the next month, many adults worried about being able to work enough hours (38.5%) and pay their debts (33.1%). More than one-quarter worry about paying for housing, utility, and medical costs and having enough food to eat.

Adults who lost their jobs were much more likely to put off essential purchases.

Furthermore, adults closer to the poverty line and non-white adults were less likely to be able to do at least part of their jobs from home.

You can read the whole report here.