LOS ANGELES – An increasing number of American families are having trouble paying bills as a result of economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study released Thursday by the RAND Corp. in Los Angeles County.
The RAND Corp. study found that nearly 45% of the 1,277 people who were surveyed several times over the course of the pandemic reported they had difficulty paying bills at some point since February, and 13% reported it had been very difficult to pay bills at some point during the pandemic.
“Despite some recent increases in employment and consumer spending, many American families continue to struggle financially,” said Katherine G. Carman, the study’s lead author and a senior economist at the nonprofit research organization. “The challenges are particularly severe among lower- income workers, and among Black and Hispanic households.”
Researchers noted that 47% of Hispanic respondents and 42% of non-Hispanic Black respondents reported in May that they had financial difficulties, compared with 20% of non-Hispanic white respondents.
Among the study participants who were working in February, more than 70% of low-income households with under $25,000 in annual income, 47% of middle-income households with income between $25,000 and $125,000, and 20% of high-income households with income above $125,000 reported financial difficulties at some point between May and September.
Among those who reported that they had trouble paying bills, the number who said they used formal credit such as credit cards or payday loans to meet their obligations rose from 41% in May to 47% in September. Those reporting they could not pay their bills rose from 25% in May to 30% in September.
Preliminary results from another wave of the survey conducted early this month suggests that many people plan to spend less than usual on holiday gifts this year, which also could indicate continuing financial hardship.