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Weekly Census Bureau Survey Provides Timely Info on Households During COVID-19 Pandemic

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The first results from the new U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey released today show that many households have experienced loss in employment income, are concerned about food security, and have deferred decisions to access health care. 

The survey is intended to provide crucial weekly data to help understand the experiences of American households during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adults who responded reported feeling anxious or nervous more than half the days last week or nearly every day 29.7% of the time.

The data provide insight on employment status, spending, food security, housing, education disruptions, and health.

In this initial release, the Household Pulse Survey Interactive Tool provides data for select indicators at national and state levels. National data also are available in table format. We plan subsequent weekly releases through late July, and will include additional estimates for states and the 15 largest metropolitan statistical areas.

For the April 23-May 5 period, we sent invitations to 1,867,126 households and a total 74,413 responded (63,003 complete interviews and 11,410 partial interviews).

Among some of the key findings: 

Overall, how have adults in the U.S. fared with respect to employment income during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Among the population of adults 18 and over, 47% either lost employment income or another adult in their household had lost employment income since March 13. Thirty-nine percent of adults expected that they or someone in their household would lose employment income over the next four weeks.

Getting enough to eat is an important measure of well-being, what is the current level of food sufficiency?  

About 10% of adults reported that they did not get enough of the food they needed some of the time or often. Another 32% report getting enough, but not the kinds of food they needed.

On average, households spent $196 a week to buy food at supermarkets, grocery stores, online, and other places to be prepared and eaten at home.



The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful and unprecedented period, how has it affected mental well-being?

Adults who responded reported feeling anxious or nervous more than half the days last week or nearly every day 29.7% of the time.

They reported not being able to stop or control worrying more than half the days last week or nearly every day 22.8% of the time.

For measures related to depression, 18.6% of adults report feeling down more than half the days or nearly every day last week, and 21.4% reported having little interest or pleasure in doing things more than half the days or nearly every day last week.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly taxed the health system, has that impacted the household population in general?  

Yes, 38.7% of adults report that over the last four weeks, they delayed getting medical care because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Housing security has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, how much?

Being unable to pay rent or mortgage on time was reported by 10.7% of adults, while another 3.2% reported they deferred payments.

When asked about the likelihood of being able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time, 21.3% reported only slight or no confidence in being able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time. Another 2.5% reported next month’s mortgage is or will be deferred.

In the last week, how did the COVID-19 pandemic affect time spent on education?

In households with children enrolled in public or private school (K-12), adults spent 13 hours on average on teaching activities during the last seven days. 

The Household Pulse Survey data are produced and released as part of the Census Bureau’s Experimental Data Product Series.

Survey Updated Weekly

Data will continue to be posted every Wednesday. The survey is designed to measure and track change over time.

The sample is implemented through overlapping panels, with each panel in the survey for three weeks and then replaced by a new, three-week panel. A new panel is added every week. Respondents in each panel will be interviewed every week for three weeks.

The Household Pulse Survey produces information on the way in which households have experienced disruptions such as job loss and school closures during the pandemic. The data also inform on individuals’ sense of security around food and housing, feelings of depression and anxiety, and ability to access health care for non-Covid-19 reasons.

The Census Bureau worked with five other federal agencies to develop the Household Pulse Survey:  Bureau of Labor StatisticsNational Center for Health StatisticsUSDA Economic Research ServiceDepartment for Housing and Urban Development, and the National Center for Education Statistics.

More Surveys Provide Near Real-time Data

The Small Business Pulse Survey is the second weekly product fielded by the Census Bureau in response to COVID-19. It includes information on location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations.

Initial results released May 14 showed the majority of businesses responding to the survey did not expect to resume operations for at least six months. They reported  experiencing supply chain disruptions and significant negative impacts from the pandemic.

In addition, last month the Census Bureau rolled out a weekly, more localized version of its Business Formation Statistics (BFS) to address the nation’s need for accurate, current information on the health of U.S. businesses.

Initially released as a quarterly, experimental product in February 2018, BFS tracks trends in business applications and formations at the state, regional, and national level. The new weekly data provide timely and granular information on the state of the economy.

The ability to understand how individuals and businesses are weathering the current crisis is critical given business disruption, stay-at-home orders, school closures, changes in the availability of consumer goods and consumer patterns, and other abrupt and significant changes to American life. 

Even in the midst of operations for the massive 2020 Decennial Census, the Census Bureau recognizes the imperative to address urgent needs for timely, relevant, accurate data to assist the nation. The two Pulse Surveys, along with the BFS, are designed to inform America during this unprecedented moment in the nation’s history. 

Census announcements relating to COVID-19 are available.


Jane Callen is the senior writer/editor in the Census Bureau's Communications Directorate.


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Page Last Revised - March 25, 2022
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