Federal Bank of Boston: New Community Development Issue Brief

Community Development Issue Briefs 21-1

Financial Strain and Material Hardship in the New England States During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Richard Rodems and Marybeth J. Mattingly

Financial strain and material hardship are important indicators of households' economic situation at a given time. Unlike the official poverty measure, which measures dollars of income compared to a threshold value, financial strain can be thought of as a warning light indicating that material hardship may lie ahead. Material hardship highlights when immediate demands for necessities such as food or housing exceed all available household resources.

The authors of this brief use U.S. Census Pulse data to document changes in resources used to pay regular bills during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also examine how food insecurity and late or skipped housing payments are impacting individuals across the region. Findings suggest that although many have lost employment income and hardships are persistently high, New Englanders are generally faring better than those living in other regions. However, disparities between states within the region are evident.

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Courtesy of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

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