Adults in households with children have been struck particularly hard by the pandemic, suffering permanent loss of employment and worrying about being able to pay their rent or mortgage, according to the results of an experimental weekly Census Bureau survey designed to assess the real-time effects of the novel coronavirus on households across the United States.
The Household Pulse Survey, which releases new data every Wednesday, found that in households with a child under the age of 18, 55 percent had at least one adult lose employment income since the start of the pandemic, higher than the rate for all households combined.
Those who had not worked the previous week were more likely to attribute it to permanent loss of employment since March 13, such as layoffs or business closures, while adults not living with children were more likely to say their not working was temporary, such as through furloughs, according to an analysis of the data by the bureau.
Adults living with children were more likely to report sometimes not having enough to eat and said they were less confident in their ability to pay their rent or mortgage in June than adults who don’t live with children.
Adults with school-age children at home have also reported spending an average of 12.3 hours a week on teaching activities.
The Household Pulse Survey is a new addition to the Census Bureau’s tool kit. It was developed rapidly in late March and early April and ready to use less than a month after Americans began observing stay-at-home directives. A separate Small Business Pulse Survey was rolled out at the same time; it releases reports each Thursday. Both have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget to provide weekly data until July; it is possible that one or both could be extended.
The data release comes as the House Oversight and Reform Committee moved to extend deadlines for the 2020 decennial count, which has been hampered by stay-at-home precautions. The Fair and Accurate Census Act, introduced Wednesday, would push deadlines for 2020 apportionment and redistricting data delivery deadlines by four months as requested by the Trump administration. It also would require the bureau to submit monthly operational and technological status reports to Congress and allow colleges and universities to provide necessary data to the Census Bureau.
The household survey was developed in partnership with five federal agencies — the National Center for Health Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Agriculture Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Center for Education Statistics. The data is expected to be used by federal agencies, policymakers, scholars and others to conduct analyses and help determine policy around the pandemic.
For the third report, released Wednesday and covering May 14-19, invitations went to 1,287,000 households; 133,000 responded.
The latest results found 48.5 percent of adult respondents had lost employment income since the nation shut down in mid-March, and 10.7 percent of households said they could not get enough of the food they needed sometimes or often, both slightly higher than the previous week. Slightly over 40 percent said they had delayed seeking medical care because of the pandemic, and nearly 100 percent of those with children in school said they had education plans disrupted by school closures, transitions to online learning or having parents teach at home.
Nevada had the highest percentage of people reporting loss of employment, at 61.9 percent; Michigan, California and Hawaii were all over 55 percent. Arkansas reported the lowest percentage, at 36.3 percent. The District of Columbia was also relatively low, at 39.1 percent. In Virginia, 42.1 percent of respondents reported loss of employment, and in Maryland it was 45 percent.
The survey also looks at mental health; an earlier report found that a third of Americans were experiencing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, suggesting a huge jump compared with before the pandemic.
The household surveys are sent by email or text to households that have provided telephone and email contact information on past Census Bureau surveys, which is 88 percent of all households. They aim to get responses from 1 million households by mid-July, and the data collection will cost the bureau $1.2 million.
The surveys are a radical departure from other bureau questionnaires, which typically undergo months or years of rigorous testing to ensure they are not hampered by unintended bias.
To gather data that would help inform politicians and policymakers on how the pandemic is affecting people’s lives, the bureau needed to be more nimble, said Victoria Velkoff, the bureau’s associate director of demographic programs.
“The thing that’s really impressive is the fact that six federal agencies came together so quickly and worked it through,” she said. “We’ve joked that that’s the fastest we’ve ever come to a decision.”
Initial responses to the Small Business Pulse Survey found that most businesses did not expect to resume operations for at least six months. They reported experiencing supply-chain disruptions and significant harm from the pandemic.In initial responses,The hardest-hit businesses were those providing food services and accommodations, arts and recreation, and education services. Fifty-nine percent of businesses reported closing for at least one day within the previous week, 66 percent said they had less than two months of cash on hand and 41 percent projected less than one month of cash on hand.
That survey, which reaches about 90,000 businesses each week, also asks about location closings, changes in employment, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations. It will reach about 880,000 businesses over a nine-week period.
To be selected, a business must have responded to the economic census and have a valid email address, have paid employees, have fewer than 500 employees and have receipts of at least $1,000 in annual revenue.
Nick Orsini, the Census Bureau’s associate director for economic programs, said he was proud of its ability to get the surveys underway so quickly after the pandemic began, “to prove that a statistical agency could . . . put something out 30 days from conception to the field, to show that we could be agile and adaptive.”