There have been some conflicting indicators about Americans’ financial health and the overall state of the economy in recent weeks. Inflation and gas prices are cooling, while the stock market and economic sentiment continued their rebound. Despite these sunnier developments, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell raised interest rates by yet another half-percentage point last week – which coincided with a Dow Jones tumble and bolstered recession concerns.

CivicScience has constantly tracked Americans’ financial health throughout the pandemic, and our data from May marked a turning point where more Americans claimed to be worse off than better off compared to before the pandemic. Although the gap is closing in a positive direction since October, most of 2022 saw the percentage of U.S. adults who are financially better off than before COVID-19 plateauing. Most movement occurred in the ‘worse’ camp, with a 22% increase in Americans reporting decreased financial health from March 2022 to December 2022. While the ‘better off’ figures have been largely static for much of this year, more Americans currently claim to be worse off than better off before the pandemic – which wasn’t the case for the vast majority of 2021.

Americans reporting they’re better off within the past month are 65% more likely to travel by plane in the next month compared to those who are worse off. A majority of U.S. adults who are currently worse off than they were before the pandemic don’t plan to travel at all within the next month.

Other insights from the data:
  • Three in ten Americans making $100,000 or more annually report being worse off than before the pandemic – which is near-equivalent to the percentage making between $50,000 and $100,000. Both income brackets are a hair behind U.S. adults earning under $50,000 who claim to be worse off (37%).
  • Americans living in rural areas are the most likely to report in the past month that they’re worse off than before the pandemic (35%). Nearly an equal percentage of urban residents claim they’re better off (32%) and worse off (33%).
  • Thirty-eight percent of Americans who ‘love’ shopping at Target claim to be better off than they were before the pandemic – which well outpaces other interest levels in Target and the Gen Pop.
  • Among Americans who view Chipotle favorably, 38% currently claim to be worse off than before the pandemic. Just 30% with an unfavorable view of the chain feel similarly.

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