COVID-19 survey: 1 in 5 Detroiters expect to run out of money in 3 months

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

About half of Detroit residents may run out of money in the next three months due to the COVID-19 crisis, and 20% definitely said they will run out of funds if the shutdown continues, according to a survey unveiled Monday.

The highest concern among Detroit residents during the novel coronavirus pandemic is being able to care for family and friends along with getting health care, food and water, according to the survey that was conducted by University of Michigan's Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. Those concerns eclipsed having a place to live and access to transportation.

Coronavirus testing on the former grounds of the Michigan State Fair grounds in Detroit, Michigan on March 30, 2020.

The survey, which included respondents who are mostly African American, reflects dramatic effects that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the African American community. The novel coronavirus already has been disproportionately infecting and killing black residents.

"Detroiters are not only concerned for their health but also their economic well-being during this pandemic," said Jeffrey Morenoff, a lead researcher for the study and director of the Population Studies Center at UM's Institute for Social Research. "We hope early insights into how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting Detroiters can help inform policy responses that directly address the community's needs." 

Researchers asked 1,880 residents to participate in the survey about how COVID-19 was impacting them. Of those,1,020 Detroiters completed the online survey, with 77% of the respondents African American.

It was open from March 31 through April 9, when COVID-19 had infected more than 6,000 people in Detroit and was linked to the deaths of 345 residents.

Since then, more residents have battled the virus: More than 8,600 infections have been reported, with black people accounting for more than 64% of them. Meanwhile, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 900 people, of whom 77% were black.

Other findings of the survey show: 

►More than 1 in 4 Detroiters — 29% — expect to contract the coronavirus in the next three months. Black residents and less educated residents, on average, report a lower perceived likelihood of contracting COVID-19 than other residents, according the reserchers.

►More than 1 in 3 city residents — 35% — of Detroit residents employed full- or part-time before March 1 lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Job losses were most prevalent among parents of young children, people with less education, people with lower incomes, people of color (black and Hispanic) and people under 30.

►Nearly half of  Detroit residents have decreased their spending in response to the pandemic.

►Nearly all Detroiters — 97% — of Detroiters said they have made at least one change in response to the virus, with more frequent handwashing, isolating themselves and praying among the top changes.

"The survey results show racial disparities in who has the financial means to weather this crisis as well as who is able to socially isolate and alter their work activities to help prevent the coronavirus spread," said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at UM who analyzed thesurvey data. "Responses to the pandemic in Detroit need to take into account those disparities and include all residents in the recovery from this economic disruption."