Census: Nearly half of households lost income since March

Survey finds many more expect to soon feel pandemic pinch on paychecks

Temporary closure signs hang on the front of a Washington storefront due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Temporary closure signs hang on the front of a Washington storefront due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 20, 2020 at 3:37pm

Nearly half of U.S. households lost some of their income since widespread coronavirus social distancing measures went into place in March, according to the first results of an ongoing Census Bureau survey examining the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 47 percent of U.S. households reported lost income and 37 percent said they expect to feel a paycheck pinch in the near future, according to the results released Wednesday. The survey also measured housing and food insecurity, as well as disruptions in education.

The agency launched the survey last month, intending to provide policymakers real-time information about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Census Bureau surveyed more than 74,000 households between April 23 and May 5 for the results released Wednesday. The agency plans to release results weekly through the middle of July.

A handful of states in the survey showed an outsize impact from the virus. More than half of households in California, Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon reported a loss in household income.

The economies of many of those states significantly depend on tourism. Businesses in Nevada made $33 billion in revenue from accommodations and food services in 2017, according to Census Bureau data, and the latest survey results found that 55 percent of households in that state reported a loss of income.

Some 41 percent of households reported delaying medical care in the last four weeks, and more than 99 percent of households reported a child’s classes were taught by distance learning or changed in some way.

The results come days after the House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion measure meant to buoy the economy amid the pandemic. The White House and Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have downplayed the prospects of passing another measure to aid the economy in the near future.

The survey caught the attention of some lawmakers, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who sent Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham a letter Monday raising “serious concerns regarding how this information will be used once it is collected.”

She asked the agency to provide more details about how it will protect the information being collected and what it plans to share with policymakers.

Last week, the agency released its first results of a companion survey of small businesses, which showed many businesses had to close temporarily and about a third expected recovery to take six months or more.