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With more than 200 million Americans having received COVID-19 vaccinations, some precautionary measures have lifted and the economy is beginning to recover. But that recovery is not being felt equally. Communities of color—Black and Latinx communities especially—continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s effects, and structural challenges are disproportionately hindering these communities from accessing vaccines. Moreover, with new COVID-19 variants and lingering vaccine hesitancy, Americans’ health remains in jeopardy.
Soon after the pandemic hit, we created a tool that used data from the first round of the federal Household Pulse Survey to track its effects by race and ethnicity on people’s health, housing, and livelihoods. This tool continued to monitor these effects using the second and third rounds of Household Pulse Survey data. As the nation’s uneven recovery continues, policymakers and practitioners can use these data to design race-conscious solutions that address widening racial disparities and unequal recovery efforts.
ABOUT THE DATA
This feature uses data from phases 2, 3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, and 3.5 of the federal Household Pulse Survey public use files to measure how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected US adults and their households. The fifth continuation of the third phase (phase 3.5) began on June 1, 2022. We stopped publishing new data on July 11, 2022. The fourth continuation of the third phase (phase 3.4) ran from March 2, 2022 to May 9, 2022. The third continuation of the third phase (phase 3.3) ran from December 1, 2022 to February 7, 2022. The second continuation of the third phase (phase 3.2) ran from July 21 to October 11, 2021. The continuation of the third phase (phase 3.1) ran from April 14 to July 5, 2021. The third phase of the Household Pulse Survey ran from October 28, 2020, to March 29, 2021. The second phase of the Household Pulse Survey ran from August 19 to October 26, 2020. Phases 2 through 3.3 collected data in uninterrupted two-week intervals, with the exception of a holiday break from December 22, 2020 to January 5, 2021 during phase 3, two-week breaks between phases 3 and 3.1 and 3.1 and 3.2, a six-week break between phases 3.2 and 3.3, and a four-week break between phases 3.3 and 3.4. Phases 3.4 and 3.5 continued in consistent two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off intervals with the exception of a one-week break between phases 3.4 and 3.5. The first phase of the Household Pulse Survey ran from April 23 to July 21, 2020. The survey reports data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with data for the 15 largest metropolitan statistical areas.
The public use files report data on race and ethnicity in two separate variables: rhispanic, which is 1 if a respondent is not of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin and 2 if they are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin; and rrace, which has four options: Asian alone, Black alone, white alone, and any other race alone, or races in combination. We use these two variables to create the race/ethnicity categories shown in the feature, mirroring the categories in the Pulse Survey data tables.
We calculate the indicators shown in the feature for each two-week survey period, geography, and racial or ethnic group. We then use the 80 replicate weights provided with the public use files to calculate the standard error for each estimate. We use these standard errors to produce the 95 percent confidence intervals shown in the feature.
We also use the replicate weights to calculate the significance of the difference between the given subgroup estimate and the total population estimate shown on each chart. While it is true that two statistics with non-overlapping confidence intervals are necessarily significantly different, the converse is not true, and two estimates with overlapping confidence intervals may be significantly different.
These numbers are estimates and may not equal the actual totals in each geography. We highly recommend interpreting these results as relative impacts of COVID-19 that can be used to inform race-conscious solutions that account for the pandemic's disparate impacts by race and ethnicity.
Phase 2 of the Household Pulse Survey introduced significant changes to the questionnaire and moved to a two-week survey window, creating differences in unit and item nonresponse between the two phases that make direct comparison with phase 1 estimates difficult. We therefore chose to produce a separate feature for phase 2. Phase 3 continued with the same questionnaire and methodology used in phase 2, so we have incorporated phase 3 data into the same feature as phase 2. The two collection periods are demarcated by a dashed line in the charts above.
Phase 3.1 continued with a slightly altered questionnaire, but data collection did not begin immediately after the end of phase 3. The change in phases is demarcated by a dashed line. The survey question for the “employment income loss” variable changed between phase 3 and phase 3.1. In phase 3, respondents were asked: “Have you, or anyone in your household experienced a loss of employment income since March 13, 2020?” In phase 3.1, respondents were asked: “Have you, or anyone in your household experienced a loss of employment income in the last four weeks?” This change is noted in the charts for the employment income loss variable.
Phase 3.2 also continued with a slightly altered questionnaire and did not begin immediately after the end of phase 3.1. The change in phases is demarcated by a dashed line. In phase 3.2, the survey question for “expected employment income loss” was removed. We have noted this on the chart and have left the continuing time period empty. The four survey questions used to calculate the “mental health” variable also changed between phase 3.1 and phase 3.2. In phases 2, 3, and 3.1, respondents were asked whether they had experienced different symptoms of depression or anxiety in the past seven days. In phase 3.2, respondents are being asked whether they have experienced different symptoms of depression or anxiety in the past two weeks. This change is noted in the charts for the mental health variable. Phases 3.3 and 3.4 each introduced slight changes to the questionnaire, but those changes do not affect the questions used in this feature. In phase 3.5, the question used for the “upcoming rent payments” and “upcoming mortgage payments” variable was removed. We have noted this on the chart and have left the continuing time period empty. For more information, please see our technical appendix.
This feature was funded by the Urban Institute through the Racial Equity Analytics Lab. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Funders do not determine research findings or the insights and recommendations of Urban experts.
View the data on Urban’s data catalog
DESIGN Allison Feldman
EDITING Fiona Blackshaw
WRITING Wesley Jenkins