Census Bureau survey offers real-time snapshot of COVID-19’s social, economic impact

June 8-14, 2020

By Daily Record Staff


As the COVID-19 swept over the U.S. population in early 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau and five different federal agencies found themselves in the unique position to produce data on the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on American households.


So, in late April, the Department of Commerce’s statistical research arm deployed the Household Pulse Survey to collect real-time data quickly and efficiently to measure household experiences during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 


And the first results from the bureau’s survey confirms what many Arkansans are already feeling as the number COVID-19 cases and deaths near $1.8 million and 110,000 respectively in the first week of June. And that is many U.S. households have experienced loss in employment income, struggle to pay mortgage and rent, are concerned about food security, and have put off health care decisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


In this initial release, the Household Pulse Survey Interactive Tool provides data for select indicators at national and state levels. For the April 23-May 5 period, the Census Bureau sent invitations to 1,867,126 households and a total 74,413 responded. The releases of data are expected to be on a weekly basis through mid-July 2020.


Among some of the key findings: 


Overall, how have adults in the U.S. fared with respect to employment income during the COVID-19 pandemic?


Among the population of adults 18 and over, 47% either lost employment income or another adult in their household had lost employment income since March 13. Thirty-nine percent of adults expected that they or someone in their household would lose employment income over the next four weeks.


In Arkansas, among the state’s 2,246,527 population of adults 18 and over, 36.3% or 808,737 loss employment income shortly after the first positive coronavirus case was reported in Pine Bluff on March 11. As of June 2, there are 7,615 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arkansas with a total of 136 deaths.


Getting enough to eat is an important measure of well-being, what is the current level of food sufficiency?  


About 10% of adults reported that they did not get enough of the food they needed some of the time or often. Another 32% report getting enough, but not the kinds of food they needed.


On average, households spent $196 a week to buy food at supermarkets, grocery stores, online, and other places to be prepared and eaten at home.


Across the Natural State, 11.8% or 257,448 Arkansans over the age of 18 reported they were getting enough to eat. Another 266,121 or 12.1% reported getting enough food but not the required nutrition.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful and unprecedented period, how has it affected mental well-being?


Adults who responded reported feeling anxious or nervous more than half the days last week or nearly every day 29.7% of the time.

They reported not being able to stop or control worrying more than half the days last week or nearly every day 22.8% of the time.

For measures related to depression, 18.6% of adults report feeling down more than half the days or nearly every day last week, and 21.4% reported having little interest or pleasure in doing things more than half the days or nearly every day last week.


The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly taxed the health system, has that impacted the household population in general?  


Yes, 38.7% of adults report that over the last four weeks, they delayed getting medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic. In Arkansas, that number amounts to 702,025 or 36% of the adults over the age of 18.


Housing security has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how much?


Being unable to pay rent or mortgage on time was reported by 10.7% of adults, while another 3.2% reported they deferred payments.


When asked about the likelihood of being able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time, 21.3% reported only slight or no confidence in being able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time. Another 2.5% reported next month’s mortgage is or will be deferred.


In Arkansas, the number of people struggling to pay rent or mortgage on time is well above the natural average at 29.4%, which amounts to 412,112 working adults across the state.


In the last week, how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect time spent on education?


In households with children enrolled in public or private school (K-12), adults spent 13 hours on average on teaching activities during the last seven days. 


The first results from the new U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey released on May 20 showed a large negative effect from COVID-19 for the majority (51.4%) of respondents and an expectation that it will take more than six months for their businesses to return to normal.


The survey, conducted by email, is intended to provide crucial weekly data on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the nation’s businesses. Results are displayed as data visualizations. The survey was delivered to 100,915 small businesses in Week 1. Key findings from the 22,449 who responded from April 26-May 2.


Overall, how has this business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?


Of the U.S. businesses surveyed in the accommodation and food services sector, 83.5% experienced a negative effect from the COVID-19 pandemic.


In your opinion, how much time do you think will pass before this business returns to its usual level of operations?


An average 31.4% expect more than six months will pass before their business returns to its usual level of operations.


In the last week, did this business temporarily close any of its locations for at least one day?


An average 41.4% temporarily closed a location for at least one day.


Of note, an average 72.2% of businesses in the educational services sector, 62.4% in healthcare and social assistance sector, and 70.8% in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector temporarily closed a location for at least one day.


In the last week, did the business have disruptions in its supply chain?


An average 44.9% reported ‘yes,’ there were disruptions in the supply chain. 


In the retail trade sector, an average 65.8% reported disruptions in its supply chain as did 49.6% of the manufacturing sector and 61.4% in the health care and social assistance sector.


The Household Pulse Survey grew out of an effort by the Census Bureau to leverage the expertise of other federal statistical agencies. The goal is to measure various sectors impacted by COVID-19: employment status, consumer spending, food security, housing, education disruptions and dimensions of physical and mental wellness.


The survey will produce and disseminate data on these social and economic factors in near real-time each week. It is designed to measure and track change over time, and the Census Bureau will implement the sample as an overlapping panel survey. Each panel is in the survey for three weeks and then replaced by a new, three-week panel. Respondents in each panel will be interviewed every week for three weeks.


The Census Bureau worked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, USDA Economic Research Service, Department for Housing and Urban Development, and the National Center for Education Statistics.