Taking Our Economic Pulse: How are Households Faring the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Jennifer Pullen, Senior Research Economist

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted households across the nation in a variety of ways. The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey quickly and efficiently collect data that measure the household experience during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey includes information about employment status, food security, housing, physical and mental health, ability to access health care, and educational disruptions for households. The household survey includes weekly data over three phases to measure the pandemic’s impact on households over time. The first phase of the survey included data from April 23rd through July 21st, the second phase began on August 21st and ended on October 26th, the third phase began on October 28th. The Household Pulse Survey includes data at the state-level and for select metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). Data for Tucson are not available, but exploring data for the Phoenix MSA and state may provide some insight into what to expect in Southern Arizona.

In Arizona during the week of October 28th, nearly 26% of adults expected that someone in their household would have a loss of employment income in the next four weeks. That was down from a high of 37.7% in the middle of July. The overall trend for the state of Arizona and Phoenix was consistent with the nation. The most recent weeks show a slight increase which may continue as the nation experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Figure 1: Expected Loss in Employment Income 

The coronavirus pandemic has increased food insecurity for many across the nation. Feeding America estimates that an additional 17.1 million individuals in the U.S. could experience food insecurity because of the pandemic.

The Household Pulse Survey tracks the percentage of adults that live in a household where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat during the past seven days. In Arizona, 11.1% of adults reported food scarcity during the week of October 28th. That was slightly better than the national rate of 12.0%. In the Phoenix MSA that rate increased to 12.4%.

Across the western states, adults in Washington reported the lowest rate of food scarcity at 8.1% followed by Utah at 8.3%, while New Mexico reported the highest rate at 17.6% (Figure 2). The MAP recently explored the topic of food insecurity in more detail. To learn more visit the recent articles “How Food Insecure is Tucson” and “How Food Secure are Tucson’s Children”.

Figure 2: Food security across the western states

In Arizona, over 10% of adults are not current on their rent or mortgage payment or have slight to no confidence that they can pay their rent or mortgage on time during the next month. Arizona’s rate was slightly higher than the national rate of 8.5% during the week of October 28th, while the rate for the Phoenix MSA was even higher at 11.6% (Figure 3). Among the western states, New Mexico had the highest rate at 12.3% and Washington the lowest at 5.1%.

Figure 3: Share of residents not current on rent or mortgage, or have slight or no confidence in making their next payment

Many across the nation are concerned that there is a looming evictions crisis. The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently estimated that 30-40 million people in the U.S. could be at risk of eviction in the next few months. To explore a more detailed MAP article on tracking the eviction crisis in Arizona visit “Tracking the Pandemic Eviction Crisis: Temporary measures delay the pain for renters but not landlords”.

Of those adults who are not current on their rent or mortgage payment during the week of October 28th, 39.3% of them believe that eviction or foreclosure is very or somewhat likely in the next two months. Arizona’s rate is slightly higher than the national rate of 32.9%, while the rate in Phoenix was the highest among all metros and states (except Florida) at 50.1%. The percentage of adults concerned about eviction or foreclosure during the week of October 28th was the highest in Nevada when exploring the western states (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Of those not current on rent or mortgage, eviction or foreclosure is very or somewhat likely during the next two months

Across the nation and in Arizona, over 30% of adults have found it difficult to pay for usual household expenses. During the week of October 28th, the percentage of adults that found it difficult to pay for normal expenses was the lowest in Washington at 24.5% and the highest in New Mexico at 41.7% (Figure 5). In the Phoenix MSA, 33% of adults found it difficult to pay for their usual household expenses.

Figure 5: Share of adults finding it difficult to pay normal household expenses

In 2018, 6.1% of those employed worked from home in Arizona. That rate was slightly lower in Tucson at 5.0% and slightly higher for those employed in Phoenix at 6.6%. To explore the work from home rate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic visit the Transportation to Work indicator.

The percentage of those working from home skyrocketed at the beginning of the pandemic. The Household Pulse Survey began tracking telework during phase two. The percentage of adults that live in a household where at least one adult has substituted some or all of their typical in-person work for telework has hovered around 35% for the U.S. and state of Arizona since the end of August.

Telework rates vary among the western states with Idaho reporting the lowest rate at 33.5% and Colorado the highest at 50.4%. The percent of adults who live in a household where at least one adult is now teleworking in the Phoenix MSA is consistent with the state and the national rate. Figure 6 explores the telework trend for the western states and Phoenix MSA. Click on/off the greyed out geographies to view the data.

Figure 6: Share of adults working from home

The Census Bureau anticipates updating the household survey data through the end of 2020. Stay tuned to the MAP Dashboard for any relevant updates to the Arizona and Phoenix data. The MAP will also provide a more detailed demographic analysis of select Household Pulse Survey data in an upcoming article. The nationwide impacts from the coronavirus are constantly changing. The MAP will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available. To stay up to date on recent articles and data releases sign-up for the MAP newsletter.