Data: Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index; Chart: Axios Visuals
Inequality widened in September, driven by income losses and fears among the most financially vulnerable, according to the latest Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index released today.
Why it matters: As COVID continues to spread, expanded pandemic-era unemployment benefits expired this month, removing a financial safety net for 7.5 million Americans.
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Worsening inequality underscores the role the enhancements played for those at the low end of the income spectrum, Morning Consult chief economist John Leer tells Axios.
“What’s particularly different right now — if you connect the economic reality with the policy situation — is that those folks who experienced pay and income losses don’t have unemployment insurance benefits to help support them and support their finances," Leer says.
How the index works: It compares sentiment between income groups based on consumer confidence, employment outcomes, employment expectations and financial vulnerability. The larger the gaps, the higher the inequality level.
The overall index widened to 7.23% from 6.52% in August.
What they found: The Delta variant's impact on employment is worsening, especially in customer-facing service sectors where consumer confidence also factors in.
For example, the share of food and beverage workers reporting income losses shot up to 26.5%, from 19.1% in the span of four weeks. These are typically lower-paying jobs so the gap in income losses between someone making less than $50,000 and a person making more than $100,000 increased to 4.5%.
Paying bills is getting harder for some. The number of people who say they can't afford a month of basic expenses rose to 31.1% from 29% for those earning less than $50,000 — and fell to 5.3% from 9.8% for those earning above $100,000.
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