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26 posts on "Demographics"
July 1, 2021

Credit, Income, and Inequality

Credit, Income, and Inequality

Access to credit plays a central role in shaping economic opportunities of households and businesses. Access to credit also plays a crucial role in helping an economy successfully exit from the pandemic doldrums. The ability to get a loan may allow individuals to purchase a home, invest in education and training, or start and then expand a business. Hence access to credit has important implications for upward mobility and potentially also for inequality. Adverse selection and moral hazard problems due to asymmetric information between lenders and borrowers affect credit availability. Because of these information issues, lenders may limit credit or post higher lending rates and often require borrowers to pledge collateral. Consequently, relatively poor individuals with limited capital endowment may experience credit denial, irrespective of the quality of their investment ideas. As a result, their exclusion from credit access can hinder economic mobility and entrench income inequality. In this post, we describe the results of our recent paper which contributes to the understanding of this mechanism.

May 13, 2021

Who’s Ready to Spend? Constrained Consumption across the Income Distribution

Spending on goods and services that were constrained during the pandemic is expected to grow at a fast pace as the economy reopens. In this post, we look at detailed spending data to track which consumption categories were the most constrained by the pandemic due to social distancing. We find that, in 2019, high-income households typically spent relatively more on these pandemic-constrained goods and services. Our findings suggest that these consumers may have strongly reduced consumption during the pandemic and will likely play a crucial role in unleashing pent-up demand when pandemic restrictions ease.

Racial and Income Gaps in Consumer Spending following COVID-19

This post is the first in a two-part series that seeks to understand whether consumer spending patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic evolved differentially across counties by race and income. As the pandemic hit and social distancing restrictions were put into place in March 2020, consumer spending plummeted. Subsequently, as social distancing restrictions began to be relaxed later in spring 2020, consumer spending started to rebound. We find that higher-income counties had a considerably steeper decline and a shallower recovery than low-income counties did. The differences by race were also sizeable as the pandemic struck but became considerably more muted after summer of 2020. The decline and the recovery until the end of summer were sharper for majority-minority (MM) than majority nonminority (MNM) counties, while both sets of counties showed similar growth in spending after that. The second post in this series highlights the goods and services that were most adversely affected (or “constrained”) by the pandemic. Then, differentiating households by income, that post explores which households were more exposed to these pandemic-constrained expenditure categories.

May 10, 2021

Women’s Labor Force Participation Was Rising to Record Highs—Until the Pandemic Hit

Women’s labor force participation grew precipitously in the latter half of the 20th century, but by around the year 2000, that progress had stalled. In fact, the labor force participation rate for prime-age women (those aged 25 to 54) fell four percentage points between 2000 and 2015, breaking a decades-long trend. However, as the labor market gained traction in the aftermath of the Great Recession, more women were drawn into the labor force. In less than five years, between 2015 and early 2020, women’s labor force participation had recovered nearly all of the ground lost over the prior fifteen years. Then the pandemic hit, erasing these gains. In recent months, as the economy has begun to heal, women’s labor force participation has increased again, but there is much ground to be made up, especially for Black and Hispanic women. A strong labor market with rising wages, as was the case in the years leading up to the pandemic, will be instrumental in bringing more women back into the labor force.

April 7, 2021

An Update on How Households Are Using Stimulus Checks

In October, we reported on how households used their first economic impact payments, which they started to receive in mid-April 2020 as part of the CARES Act, and how they expected to use a second stimulus payment. In this post, we exploit new survey data to examine how households used the second round of stimulus checks, abd we investigate how they plan to use the third round.

February 9, 2021

Black and White Differences in the Labor Market Recovery from COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the various measures put in place to contain it caused a rapid deterioration in labor market conditions for many workers and plunged the nation into recession. The unemployment rate increased dramatically during the COVID recession, rising from 3.5 percent in February to 14.8 percent in April, accompanied by an almost three percentage point decline in labor force participation. While the subsequent labor market recovery in the aggregate has exceeded even some of the most optimistic scenarios put forth soon after this dramatic rise, this recovery has been markedly weaker for the Black population. In this post, we document several striking differences in labor market outcomes by race and use Current Population Survey (CPS) data to better understand them.

Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in Commuting for Work Following COVID-19

The introduction of numerous social distancing policies across the United States, combined with voluntary pullbacks in activity as responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, resulted in differences emerging in the types of work that were done from home and those that were not. Workers at businesses more likely to require in-person work—for example, some, but not all, workers in healthcare, retail, agriculture and construction—continued to come in on a regular basis. In contrast, workers in many other businesses, such as IT and finance, were generally better able to switch to working from home rather than commuting daily to work. In this post, we aim to understand whether following the onset of the pandemic there was a wedge in the incidence of commuting for work across income and race. And how did this difference, if any, change as the economy slowly recovered? We take advantage of a unique data source, SafeGraph cell phone data, to identify workers who continued to commute to work in low income versus higher income and majority-minority (MM) versus other counties.

Some Workers Have Been Hit Much Harder than Others by the Pandemic

Abel and Deitz look at the outsized impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on some workers, particularly those who are in lower-wage jobs, without a college degree, female, minority, and younger.

January 12, 2021

Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in COVID-19: Public Transportation and Home Crowding

This is the second post in a series that aims to understand the gap in COVID-19 intensity by race and income. In our post yesterday, we looked at how comorbidities, uninsurance rates, and health resources may help to explain the race and income gap observed in COVID-19 intensity. We found that a quarter of the income gap and more than a third of the racial gap in case rates are explained by health status and system factors. In this post, we look at two factors related to indoor density—namely the use of public transportation and increased home crowding. Here, we will aim to understand whether these two factors affect overall COVID-19 intensity, whether the income and racial gaps of COVID can be further explained when we additionally include these factors, and whether and to what extent these factors independently account for income and racial gaps in COVID-19 intensity (without controlling for the factors considered in the other posts in this series).

Posted at 10:01 am in Demographics, Inequality, Pandemic | Permalink | Comments (0)

Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in Covid-19: Health Insurance, Comorbidities, and Medical Facilities

Our previous work documents that low-income and majority-minority areas were considerably more affected by COVID-19, as captured by markedly higher case and death rates. In a four-part series starting with this post, we seek to understand the reasons behind these income and racial disparities. Do disparities in health status translate into disparities in COVID-19 intensity? Does the health system play a role through health insurance and hospital capacity? Can disparities in COVID-19 intensity be explained by high-density, crowded environments? Does social distancing, pollution, or the age composition of the county matter? Does the prevalence of essential service jobs make a difference? This post will focus on the first two questions. The next three posts in this series will focus on the remaining questions. The posts will follow a similar structure. In each post, we will aim to understand whether the factors considered in that post affect overall COVID-19 intensity, whether the racial and income gaps can be further explained when we additionally include the factors in consideration in that post, and whether and to what extent the factors under consideration in that post independently affect racial and income gaps in COVID-19 intensity (without controlling for the factors considered in the other posts in this series).

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