Since the pandemic emerged, the Census Bureau has worked with other government departments, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to measure the economic hardships that accompanied the viral outbreak. Every two weeks, the Household Pulse Survey releases information about how the pandemic has affected Americans. And as cases and deaths fell, economic indicators such as the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity or having trouble paying their bills had already begun to improve.
Interestingly, there’s no apparent correlation between improvement on these metrics and the number of residents in a state who are currently fully vaccinated. Instead, the improvement has been across the board.
Consider the percentage of people saying that they expect to see their income decline over the next month. In every state and D.C., the percentage saying they had that expectation in mid-January was at least one percentage point higher than it was in late April. On average, that concern dropped 11.5 points.
The same holds true for the number of people saying they were having difficulty paying their usual expenses. In no state did the percentage having that concern increase; on average, the percentage saying that in a state fell by about nine points between January and April.
In all but nine states and D.C., the percentage of people saying there was sometimes not enough to eat in the preceding seven days declined by more than a percentage point. On average, the percentage of people in any state who said that was a concern fell by three points over those four months.
In all but 10 states, the percentage of people saying that they’d missed a housing payment and were worried about catching up also fell by more than one percentage point. On average, the number of residents of a state expressing this concern fell three percentage points.
You’ll notice on that map that the states in which the number of people expressing concern about paying for housing didn’t fall are ones in which the percentage of people who’d missed payments was already low in January.
There are obviously a lot of factors that are likely at play here. The economy is a complicated thing! But it is nonetheless the case that these metrics — tracked by the Census Bureau specifically because of the pandemic — showed improvement as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths plunged. While there’s not a strong correlation between the declines and the current vaccination rate, there’s a strong correlation between the percentage of Americans worried about losing income and the decline in new cases each day.
Curtailing the pandemic will save lives. It’s also clearly saving livelihoods.