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COVID-19

Even high schoolers are feeling economic uncertainty

Andie Corban May 4, 2020
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Vivienne Dragun, a student in Midland, Texas. "This is one of the biggest years of my life," she said. Courtesy of Vivienne Dragun
COVID-19

Even high schoolers are feeling economic uncertainty

Andie Corban May 4, 2020
Vivienne Dragun, a student in Midland, Texas. "This is one of the biggest years of my life," she said. Courtesy of Vivienne Dragun
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Vivienne Dragun, 18, is a high school senior in Midland, Texas. Even while social distancing and staying home, Dragun can feel a sense of anxiety in her hometown, where the economy is based almost entirely on oil.

“In 2008-2009, there was an oil bust here,” Dragun said. “I was only about 7 years old, but I remember how empty the town was and how there was very little traffic. I think that everyone here remembers the bust, and we’re all worried that it’s gonna happen again.”

Dragun is facing uncertainty in her personal life too.

“This is one of the biggest years of my life,” Dragun said. “I’m graduating high school, I’m moving out for college and I’m being an independent adult for the first time ever. Coronavirus is making me unsure if I’m going to do any of those things in 2020.”

Dragun planned on spending this summer saving money for college by working as a lifeguard in Midland. Her earnings were meant to cover things like going out with friends or buying new clothes.

“I’m a little unsure if I’ll actually have my job this summer,” Dragun said. “It would mean I have to either get a job at school or count on working next summer because this summer is going to be, hopefully, a big time for me to make a lot of the money I’m going to need in college.”

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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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