COVID-19’s uneven financial blows widen gap between haves, have-nots, analyst says

Job losses are concentrated among lower-wage workers, Marquette Poll official says
10 percent of US labor force out of work as 6.6 million more Americans file for jobless aid

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WKBT) — The varied effects of the economic upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic are “sharpening the division between haves and have-nots in Wisconsin’s economy,” according to an analyst with the Marquette University Law Poll.

Just as COVID-19’s effects on communities vary, so does the economic crisis, says John Johnson, research fellow in Marquette’s Lubar Center for Public Policy Research and Civic Education.
“Along with disproportionate cases and deaths, black and Hispanic Wisconsin residents faced a stark economic toll. The number of black respondents ‘struggling to make ends meet’ increased from 10 percent in January/February to 22 percent during the pandemic,” Johnson writes.
Covid PollThe proportion of Latino respondents “living comfortably” dropped from 66 percent to 47 percent, he says.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 14 percent in April and 12 percent in May. Combining surveys from late March, early May and mid-June, the Marquette Poll found that 13 percent of Wisconsin registered voters had lost a job or been laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another 23 percent said a family member had suffered the same fate. Similarly, 23 percent said they were working fewer hours, and 29 percent said this had happened to a family member. Altogether, 27 percent of those interviewed had either lost a job, lost hours or both, at some point during the economic shutdown.
Just 37 percent of those who lost a job were “living comfortably.” Only 1 in 3 people who lost more than one job were “living comfortably,” 57 percent were “just getting by” and 11 percent were “struggling to make ends meet.”
But people who suffered no financial ill effects actually improved their self-assessed financial well-being during the pandemic. Among people whose families lost no jobs or hours, 70 percent were “living comfortably,” 25 percent “just getting by” and only 4 percent were struggling, according to Johnson.
Covid Poll 2Before the pandemic, 37 percent of people whose household incomes were below $40,000 said they were living comfortably. But people in that bracket whose family lost at least one job now report a 24 percent rate of “living comfortably” — a 13 percent decline.
Forty-seven percent of people from families who avoided income losses now say they are “living comfortably” — a 10 percent increase, Johnson says, adding that all income tiers mirror the same pattern.
Johnson lists three possible explanations for the “living comfortably” increase among those who have kept their jobs:
• Job losses in the pandemic have been concentrated among lower-wage workers. Those who lost their jobs probably already more likely to be financially strapped.
• People whose families have kept their jobs may feel themselves lucky and are more likely to be positive about their financial well-being.
• People who have maintained an uninterrupted income stream actually might be making and/or saving more money than before.

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