We polled the nation in October 2020, December 2020, and March 2021 to illuminate how US communities have experienced COVID-19. We wanted to understand:
We asked respondents how COVID-19 has changed their household’s situation, including their ability to access medicine, employment status, and housing condition. Participants were asked to rate either how much their situation worsened or improved as a result of the pandemic during these specific timeframes.
The following question shows how US residents feel their household situation has changed across different aspects of their lives, for worse or for better, because of COVID-19.
Overall, these results show that the COVID-19 pandemic had a mostly negative impact on many aspects of US residents’ lives. However, some individuals did note their situations got better in some areas.
Economic areas such as employment, the ability to purchase basic expenses, ability to get medicines or medical treatment and housing were the most frequently categorized as “got much worse” or “got a little worse.” If employment is hard to maintain, other economic categories that rely on a source of income also deteriorate. As household economic situations worsen, they add more and more stress to individuals, which can, among other factors, lead to worsening of emotional or mental health. As these nine categories are not independent of one another, as one worsens, it can be reflected in the others. It is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative effect on many domains of most peoples’ lives, but it is evident from these results that economic concerns are a driving factor to these cascading consequences.
We asked respondents to select the one challenge (out of nine possible challenges) that negatively impacted them the most.
COVID-19 has created many overlapping challenges – this question highlights which challenges, of many, were most harmful to most respondents during this time.
These results show the immense impact on psychological well-being during the pandemic in the last quarter of 2020 and how issues may have shifted during the first quarter of 2021. Increases in the number of respondents who said their greatest challenge was employment situation or ability to pay for basic expenses between October and December may reflect the ongoing (and in some areas, worsening) economic impact of COVID-19. From December to March, the proportion of respondents who said emotional or mental health or ability to pay for medicines were their greatest challenges increased.
As for the slight decrease in the number of respondents who said their biggest challenge was their ability to get medicines or treatment between October and December, this shift may be attributed to providers loosening limitations on in-office services or appointments. Especially in early stages of the pandemic, providers shifted to telehealth services to expand access to care, limit disease exposure for staff and patients, and reduce the patient demand on facilities. However, a perception among some patients that telehealth services do not provide the same quality of care and/or the fact telehealth is more difficult to access for some individuals may have limited their ability to access medicines or treatments.
It is also important to note that the proportion of respondents who said their biggest challenge was their ability to pay for basic expenses and employment situation rose in October and December. However, in March, the proportion of respondents who said one of these was their greatest challenge decreased, and it is possible that there may have been a positive economic change to create this kind of improvement. This could be attributed to national policy adjustments and/or the Presidential transition.
The challenges of caretaking, childcare, housing and technology remained very consistent in the number of respondents who said these were the most pressing issues, likely due to economic challenges weighing more heavily for most of the population. Additionally, policies such as the Federal Eviction Moratoriums in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic have limited the likelihood for housing situations to deteriorate between October and March, offering some relief to US residents through the pandemic. Finally, these polls began months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and many households have stabilized into a new routine by October, limiting the represented change in hardships. Had data been collected pre-pandemic, we would likely have seen more drastic changes in responses from month to month.
Polling was completed with support of the Walmart Foundation for our project, Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color.