Shortly after the outbreak of COVID-19, the Census Bureau launched a vast initiative to measure the effects of the disease on Americans. It is called the Household Pulse Survey. So far, the results have been released in three phases, which began with the first study that was in the field starting April 23, 2020. The data is released by week.
Each weekly report actually covers about two weeks of information gathered by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies. Among the questions asked each week is whether any adults who respond “live in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the last 7 days.”
Current data covers Week 27 and includes the results of questions about income loss, the percentage of Americans who work from home, food scarcity, chances of eviction or foreclosure, difficulty in paying household expenses, whether people have received a COVID-19 vaccine and whether those not vaccinated plan to be vaccinated in the future.
The work is done in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Center for Education Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Social Security Administration and USDA Economic Research Service.
Data come from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and America’s largest metro areas.
The official term for people who have struggled to get enough to eat is “Food Scarcity.” According to the AAMC: “Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, estimates that 17 million people in the country could become food insecure because of the pandemic, bringing the total to more than 54 million people in the country, including 18 million children.”
The state where “food scarcity” is the highest is Arkansas at 14.5%, followed by Oklahoma at 13.9%, Rhode Island at 13.7%, and Mississippi at 13.4%. While the Census does not draw a link between “food scarcity” and median household income, most of these states have income figures that are low.
At the other end of the spectrum are states with higher household income. The lowest figure is in Vermont at 3.8%, followed by Utah at 4.8%, Maine at 4.8%, and Massachusetts at 5.2%.
The city with the highest “food scarcity” level is Miami at 15.5%.
As the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 drop to the point where they may be “herd immunity” in America, there is no way to say whether high levels of food scarcity will persist. If so, one issue is whether it will be addressed systematically.
Click here to read America’s Richest and Poorest States.
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