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Multidimensional Hardship in the United States during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Working Paper Number SEHSD-WP2021-16
Shatakshee Dhongde and Brian Glassman


This paper estimates multidimensional hardships experienced by Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. We use monthly data from the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and other agencies to estimate a multidimensional hardship index. Our analysis spans one year of the pandemic, beginning April 2020 and ending March 2021. Results indicate that a high percentage of the adult population experienced mental health symptoms, followed by job insecurity, housing insecurity, and food insufficiency. On average, 13.2 percent of respondents experienced two or more hardships during the year. When COVID-19 cases peaked in July 2020, as many as 16.4 percent experienced multiple hardships. Young adults, and individuals with less education and income were more likely to suffer from hardships. Blacks were more likely to experience food insufficiency and housing insecurity, whereas Hispanics were more likely to experience job insecurity. Statewide values of the multidimensional hardship index revealed that hardships were more prevalent in the South and the West and less so in the Midwest.

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