The COVID-19 crisis is not only a public health disaster, it is having catastrophic effects on the U.S. economy and the lives of millions of ordinary citizens.  

U.S. Census Data:

The U.S. Census bureau publishes a weekly report called the PULSE Survey through which it is measuring the impact of the pandemic on various social and economic indicators.  Among other things, the most recent survey data (gathered between May 7-12) examined the relationship between people’s educational levels and whether or not they had lost some of their household incomes during the pandemic.  This could include everything from losing a job, to salary reductions, or loss of benefits.

The Findings:

The data suggest that the economic impacts of the pandemic are not spread proportionately across the U.S. population.  Those households in which people have less than a high school degree were more likely to have lost income than in those where people had a high school diploma, a GED, or some college credits.  Those households in which people held college degrees were less likely to have lost household income than any the other groups as the following table shows:


These may be very preliminary data but they suggest a repeat of the trends we saw during and after the Great Recession (2007-2009).  Studies of that economic crisis clearly showed the link between educational level and income.  People with college degrees were less likely to lose their jobs than those with only high school diplomas or some college credits (but not a degree).  These studies showed that while people with college degrees sometimes did lose their jobs, they were more likely to find another—and find it more quickly—than those without degrees. 

A college degree matters.

Over the last several years, an increasing number of high school students are questioning the value of a college degree.  Some are choosing to postpone or even forego a college education on the assumption that a degree is not worth the cost. They apparently missed one of the lessons of the Great Recession—that a college degree plays an important role in building economic security.  And now during the pandemic, some early research suggests that history may be repeating itself.   

Comments are closed.