USA – Average Decline in Material Hardship during the Pandemic Conceals Unequal Circumstances (Urban Institute)

In this brief, we assess how material hardship changed during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, between December 2019 and December 2020. Using data from the Urban Institute’s Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, our analysis provides the first probability-based national survey estimates of changes in hardship from a prepandemic baseline. Despite a steep drop in employment, we find the share of nonelderly adults reporting food insecurity and problems paying utility and medical bills declined between 2019 and 2020. However, this average change obscures the substantial hardships among families who lost work during the pandemic.