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
Share Now on:
HTML EMBED:
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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

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

Which states are reopening?

Many states have started to relax the restrictions put in place in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Although social-distancing measures still hold virtually everywhere in the country, more than half of states have started to phase out stay-at-home orders and phase in business reopenings. Others, like New York, are on slower timelines.

Is it worth applying for a job right now?

It never hurts to look, but as unemployment reaches levels last seen during the Great Depression and most available jobs are in places that carry risks like the supermarket or warehouses, it isn’t a bad idea to sit tight either, if you can.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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