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Multidimensional economic deprivation during the coronavirus pandemic: Early evidence from the United States

Shatakshee Dhongde

PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 12, 1-15

Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic led to a severe economic shock in the United States. This paper uses a unique survey data collected early on in the pandemic to measure economic deprivation among individuals. The Federal Reserve Board fielded a Survey of Household Economics and Decision-making (SHED) in April 2020. This survey is used to compile data on four indicators of economic deprivation, namely: i) Overall financial condition, ii) Loss of employment, iii) Reduction in income and iv) Inability to pay bills in full. Data on these indicators is compiled for each individual and is used in a novel way to construct a set of multidimensional deprivation indices. These indices measure the overlap of deprivations experienced by an individual. Results show that almost 25 percent of the respondents faced hardships in at least two of the four indicators. More than 13 percent of adults reported their inability to pay monthly bills and struggled to make ends meet financially. One in four respondents had lower income compared to income from previous month. The economic shock affected Hispanics in a more profound way. More than 37 percent Hispanics reported hardship in two or more indicators and 8 percent reported hardship in all four indicators. Higher proportion of young adults and those without a college degree suffered multiple hardships. The paper highlights the plight of Americans during the early months of the economic crisis set in motion amid the coronavirus pandemic and sheds light on how economic disparities deepened along racial/ethnic lines.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244130

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