There are Two Curves Americans Now Care About

As we enter into a possible ‘peak week’ in New York, perhaps it’s wrong to think about mitigation as a trade off between human health and the economy. As they told us, Americans’ livelihoods are now also at risk amid the shutdown and this is becoming a matter of public health. Americans are struggling to pay bills: Over a quarter (27%) have missed (or will soon miss) a bill payment and ages 18-49 are more likely than those 50+ (37% vs. 16%). Especially hard hit are young people. In our interview for Kaiser Health and VICE, our data shows that 31% of 18 to 34 had either been laid off or put on temporary leave, compared with 22% of those 35 to 49 and 15% 50 to 64. 

The domino effect moves into American homes where nearly a fifth (19%) say they have missed (or will soon miss) a rent/mortgage payment, especially men (23% vs.17% women) and 18-49 (27% vs. 10% 50+). As a result, 60% say they can only survive for 1-6 months on their savings and 11% can’t live on their savings at all. Four in five Americans (42%) have lost income partially and a fifth (19%) entirely. Americans 18-49 are more likely than 50+ to have lost income partially (51% vs. 31%) and entirely (26% vs. 11%). 

Understandably then, over a quarter of Americans (27%) have accumulated more debt than normal and cut back on savings, especially men (31% vs. 23% women) and younger adults (48% of 18-34 vs. 29% of 50+) and a third of Americans (33%) have stopped or cut back on retirement savings, while nearly 2 in 5 Americans (38%) have stopped or cut back on other savings. Nearly half of Americans (43%) think their income will be lower than it was in 2019, notably 18-49 (51% vs. 34% 50+) and $50k-$75k HH’s (51% vs. 39% of <$50k HHI). 

Amid this pressure, how are we getting by? This week we lost Bill Withers, whose song ‘Lean of Me’ has been a cultural rallying cry. And indeed, Americans are leaning on family and friends for a financial lifeline; Nearly 3 in 10 (28%) have provided financial support for a family member, especially 18-49 (35% vs. 20% 50+). Around a fifth of Americans (19%) have provided financial support for a friend. 

Fortunately, we are also summoning our resourcefulness. Indeed, ‘Pivot’ may become Merriam Webster’s word of the year: Around 2 in 5 Americans (38%) have sought out new or additional sources of income. Men are more apt to state this (44% vs. 32% women) as well as ages 18-49 (51% vs. 22% 50+). 

Takeaway: Many economists say this is a public health decision first and the economics will follow. But the more we suppress the spread by suppressing the economy the harder the toll on American livelihoods and survival. Flattening the economic curve is a key priority to stemming the anxiety and stress that’s growing in discussions across American kitchen tables throughout the nation. 


METHODOLOGY
 
This survey (Wave 6) was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 1,993 U.S adults from April 3 – 5, 2020. Wave 5 was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,016 U.S adults from March 28 – 30, 2020. Wave 4 was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,023 U.S adults from March 21-22, 2020. Wave 3 of the survey was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,019 U.S adults from March 17-18, 2020. Wave 2 of the survey was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,050 U.S adults from March14-15, 2020. Wave 1 of this survey was fielded online among a nationally representative sample of 2,019 U.S adults from March 05 – 09, 2020.