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Overall Economic Impact

In our third report drawn from the Living in Boston During COVID-19 survey, we have focused on the pandemic’s economic impact among Bostonians. We documented the substantial loss of jobs and income resulting from the pandemic.  At the same time, we found striking disparities in these adverse economic effects between communities and in relation to race and ethnicity, education and income, and family status.  The patterning of these effects indicate that the pandemic has multiplied rather than reduced preexisting inequities. In today’s data story, the first of three from this report, we focus on the extent of adverse economic impact.

More than one in five Bostonians had experienced a change in their employment status during the early months of the pandemic.  By the time of the survey, 13.7% reported having lost their job, while another 8.5% had gained a job since March.  About half were working in March before the pandemic and remained working in April and June, while just over one-quarter were not employed during any of these three months.

Almost two in five (38%) had seen their personal income decline during the pandemic—about equally divided between those whose income loss was “a lot” and “a little,” while a small fraction (7%) had seen their income rise.

Income loss during the early months of the pandemic was concentrated among those who had lost a job.  More than half of those who had not regained a job by June reported their income had gone “down a lot,” and all but 28% said their incomes had gone down at least a little—while the rest had not lost any.  Almost four in ten of those who had gained a job by June reported they had lost a lot of income, and more than two-thirds had experienced at least some income loss.  By contrast, two-thirds of those who were not employed before the pandemic and during its early months did not experience any income loss, nor did more than three-quarters of those who remained employed through June. Most of those whose employment status had not changed reported their income had declined only a little.  As a fraction of all respondents, 44 percent had experienced some adverse economic impact: job loss and/or income decline.

Income loss was also concentrated by neighborhood.  In neighborhoods with many affluent residents, like Beacon Hill, Back Bay, the South End, and West Roxbury, few suffered a major loss of income.  In some of the less affluent communities like Mattapan and East Boston/Orient Heights, income loss was much more common.  But the neighborhood variation only reveals part of the story.

Income Loss by Neighborhood

The content of this post is drawn from the Living in Boston during COVID-19 survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at UMass Boston and the Boston Area Research Initiative at Northeastern University, in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission. It was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences (HEGS) program through a grant y for rapid-response research (RAPID; Award #2032384). The results presented here were part of a longer report on “Economic Strains.”

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