Majority in four U.S. cities face financial hardship

Majority in four U.S. cities face financial hardship

A majority of households in the four largest cities in the United States report experiencing severe financial hardship since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, a report from National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds.

Based on a survey of nearly thirty-five hundred adults conducted between July 1 and August 3, the report, The Impact of Coronavirus on Households in Major U.S. Cities (106 pages, PDF), found that 50 percent of respondents in Chicago, 63 percent of respondents in Houston, 56 percent of those in Los Angeles, and 53 percent of those in New York City said they were facing or had faced "serious financial problems." The most commonly reported problems included using up all or most of their savings and having difficulty paying their mortgage or rent, credit card or utility bills, or other obligations. In all four cities, African-American and Latinx respondents were significantly more likely to report serious financial problems than their white neighbors. The disparities were greatest in Houston, where 81 percent of Black respondents and 77 percent of Latinx respondents reported severe financial hardship, compared with 34 percent of white respondents, followed by New York City (62 percent/73 percent vs. 36 percent), Chicago (69 percent/63 percent vs. 33 percent) and Los Angeles (52 percent/71 percent vs. 37 percent). 

Among households with annual income of under $30,000, 74 percent in Chicago, 86 percent in Houston, 79 percent in Los Angeles, and 71 percent in New York City were experiencing financial problems. And at least half of all households in the four cities — 51 percent in Chicago, 57 percent in Houston, 61 percent in Los Angeles, and 50 percent in New York City — reported that at least one member of the household had lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had their wages or hours reduced.

The survey also found that 23 percent of respondents in Chicago, 27 percent in Houston, 20 percent in Los Angeles, and 19 percent in New York City said someone in their household has been unable to get medical care for a serious problem. In addition, among households with children, 51 percent of respondents in Chicago, 60 percent in Houston, 69 percent in Los Angeles, and 60 percent in New York City reported having serious childcare problems, including keeping their children's education going and having difficulty providing physical activity for their children while following social distancing guidelines.

"These findings raise important concerns about households' abilities to weather long-term financial and health effects of the coronavirus outbreak," the report's authors write. "[A] large share have depleted their savings and are having major problems paying for basic costs of living, including food, rent, and medical care."

(Photo credit: Greater Chicago Food Depository)

"The impact of coronavirus on households in major U.S. cities." National Public Radio, RobertWood Johnson Foundation, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report 09/09/2020. Joe Neel. "NPR poll: Financial pain from coronavirus pandemic 'much, much worse' than expected." National Public Radio 09/09/2020.