Economic Anxiety Index®

People across most income groups are more anxious about the economy during COVID-19

Mitchell Hartman May 5, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Economic Anxiety Index®

People across most income groups are more anxious about the economy during COVID-19

Mitchell Hartman May 5, 2020
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Nearly one-third of Americans tell us they’re losing sleep over their current financial situation. Food insecurity is becoming a widely shared experience, with 44 percent saying they now worry a lot or some about paying for groceries.

These are just some of the findings of our latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, which we’ve been using to track Americans’ financial fears since before the last presidential election. Our Economic Anxiety Index® jumped 25% since the spring of last year. It’s the sharpest rise of any polling we’ve done.

But the data behind the index reveals something especially telling about the economy: Lower income people were already very anxious well before anyone said the words “novel coronavirus.”

That is, those earning under $25,000 a year had high anxiety even in the good economy, before COVID-19 hit. And they still do.

“A lot of the job losses are concentrated in sort of the lower income tiers, restaurants and retail,” said Curt Long of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions.

That’s one reason pandemic relief checks and jobless benefits are so important, says University of Chicago economist Constantine Yannelis. He’s been studying how much of that money is being spent right away.

“We find much larger responses for people who have less than $500 in their accounts, and actually find no response for people who have $3,000 or more,” Yannelis said.

Those earning $100,000 and above are also anxious, significantly more than before the pandemic.

Check out the full poll results here and here, and read more about our methodology below: 

The Marketplace-Edison Research Survey is a national survey of Americans 18 and older. A total of 1,018 respondents were interviewed, with 500 interviews conducted by telephone and 518 interviews conducted online. The interviews were conducted from April 23-28, 2020.

The data was weighted to match the most recent United States population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for age, gender, race, income and region of the country.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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