Nearly 30% of NYC households have lost a source of income due to COVID-19


If the US were a person, New York City would have to be their heart. The big apple is the cultural and financial capital of America, and in many ways, the entire world (sorry, Paris). Unfortunately, New York City’s vast population and generally not-so-spacious living conditions have quickly caused it to become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US. 

Businesses have shut down, hospitals are starting to become crowded, and New Yorkers all across the five boroughs are staying indoors. NYC residents aren’t used to being told what to do, but these are extraordinary times that call for extreme measures. When times are good, nowhere in the USA is quite as prosperous as New York, but that also means the Empire City’s vast economy is especially vulnerable during this pandemic. 

In an attempt to gauge the economic impact of the coronavirus, the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy conducted a second survey of 1,000 New York City residents on March 20th through 22nd. Perhaps predictably, but nonetheless upsetting, the results paint a grim financial picture, especially for NYC’s lower-income and Hispanic households.

Close to three in 10 NYC residents (29%) have either lost a job themselves or report that a member of their family/household has lost income due to the coronavirus over the past two weeks. Beyond just income, 80% of NYC residents have had trouble finding the food that they need and 66% reported excessive feelings of loneliness and isolation due to social distancing measures.

When these results were broken down according to race, it became clear that the Hispanic and Latinx communities are being hit the hardest financially. In all, 41% of such respondents reported the loss of a job or household income over the past two weeks. That’s more than two in five Hispanic NYC residents. In comparison, 24% of Caucasian and Asian respondents said the same, as well as 15% of African-American survey participants.

Similarly, Spanish-speaking households are seeing a greater economic strain & loss of jobs (39%) than English-speaking families and residences (26%). 

What about income brackets? It’s a tale as old as time; the poor suffer the most when times are tough. NYC households with a reported income of under $50,000 have experienced the most job loss (34% of such respondents). Meanwhile, 28% of survey participants with earnings between $50,000-$100,000 reported the loss of at least one job, and 16% of respondents earning over $100,000 have lost a job.

Across the board, the survey found that the people who need their jobs the most are seeing their income disappear. For example, 42% of respondents with two or more children have lost a job. That’s quite a bit more than the 27% of New Yorkers with one child or less who report a loss of income.

Regarding age groups, the middle-aged appear to be facing the majority of job losses; a full third of 30-59 year-olds reported losing a job due to the coronavirus in comparison to 24% of 18-29 year-olds and 23% of adults aged 60 or older. It’s also worth mentioning that men (30%) seem to be losing their jobs a bit more often than women (27%).

The survey also asked participants about other aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. On a positive note, only 15% admitted to sharing news stories and information on social media that they didn’t know to be verified. That’s a significant improvement over the 31% of respondents who admitted to sharing unverified coronavirus information in the first survey.

One of the survey’s most striking findings was the fact that many (68%) older NYC residents (aged 60+) still believe they aren’t in all that much danger from the coronavirus. Fortunately, the majority of those respondents said they are following preventative measures closely regardless.

A full two-thirds (67%) of older respondents stayed home last week instead of going to work and 82% avoided all people outside of their immediate household. Another 53% avoided all hugs or handshakes. So, while many older New Yorkers still refuse to believe that COVID-19 will hurt them, at least they are being responsible and heeding the advice of medical professionals.

Younger survey respondents actually reported following social distancing recommendations at higher percentages than older participants. The youth of NYC appear to have gotten the message.

When participants were asked about their top sources for coronavirus news, over half (52%) of older adults cited traditional TV news outlets (ABC, NBC), while younger people are more inclined to go directly to the CDC (30%) or WHO (24%). Only 10% of younger respondents listed social media as their preferred way to read the news.

These results are, to put it lightly, not exactly great. There are reasons to be optimistic, though. Just yesterday Governor Cuomo reported that preliminary NYC hospital admittance statistics appear to indicate that social distancing measures are working.

It’s impossible to say exactly when the tide will turn on this virus, and the worst may still be ahead of us, but New Yorkers are as resilient as they come. As Abraham Lincoln proclaimed during his inauguration speech, this too shall pass.

The full survey can be found here. It is also published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives.