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Income and Poverty in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Date: December 28 2020

Summary: Emerging insights into income and poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic

Keywords: ##bibliography #pandemic #covid #economics #poverty #population #survey #archive


J. Han, B. Meyer, and J. Sullivan, "Income and Poverty in the COVID-19 Pandemic," National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, w27729, Aug. 2020. doi: 10.3386/w27729.

Table of Contents

    1. General Insights
    2. Methods of Research
    3. Key Conclusions
  1. How To Cite
  2. References
  3. Discussion:

General Insights

This study provides a template for understanding large economic shocks as they happen to counter the problem of data availability during major economic shocks. The start of the pandemic saw an unprecedented decline in economic activity in the US. The largest single month decline in US unemployment was 14 percent in April 2020.

The federal government's response totalled to nearly three trillion dollars spent to counter pandemic effects. Their response comprised of:

Methods of Research

Basic Monthly Current Population Survey (Monthly CPS), was used due to its quick release to understand the impact of macroeconomic conditions and government policies on US families' incomes.

Family income from respondents in their first or fifth month in the survey were observed for a monthly sample ranging from 8,999 households and 20,822 individuals in February 2020 to 6,149 households and 14,383 individuals in April 2020. Monthly CPS data from IPUMS-CPS [1] Generally, 90% of earnings are reported in CPS, as opposed to ~60% of unemployment insurance. [2]

Key Conclusions

Without US government intervention, poverty would have risen by 2.7 percentage points between January and June.

The COVID Impact survey [3] finds an increase in food insecurity when compared to a different earlier survey while the Census Bureau's Household Pulse survey [4] finds high rates of inability to pay rent. These sources suggest increased hardship after the pandemic. The increase in deprivation is not due to the overall income loss, but rather due to other disruptions of the pandemic, including possibly the unevenness of the income flows.

Disruptions such as:

How To Cite

Zelko, Jacob. Income and Poverty in the COVID-19 Pandemic. December 28 2020.


[1] S. Flood, M. King, R. Rodgers, S. Ruggles, and J. Warren, “Integrated public use microdata series, current population survey: Version 7.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: Integrated public use microdata; 2020.”

[2] B. D. Meyer, W. K. Mok, and J. X. Sullivan, “Household surveys in crisis,” J. Econ. Perspect., vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 199–226, 2015.

[3] L. Bauer, “The COVID-19 Crisis Has Already Left Too Many Children Hungry in America,” May 06, 2020. (accessed Nov. 08, 2020).

[4] J. Fields et al., “Design and Operation of the 2020 Household Pulse Survey, 2020,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2020. Accessed: Nov. 08, 2020. [Online]. Available:


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