PPIC Logo Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Blog Post · December 6, 2021

Californians’ Financial Worries and Woes

photo - Concerned Woman Reading Bill

Amid a global supply chain crisis and with inflation at a 31-year high, Californians are paying more than they have in three decades for gasoline, food, and energy. With no signs of immediate relief, how worried are Californians about paying for essentials?

At least two in ten adults worry every day or almost every day about paying for necessities such as healthcare, housing, and bills, according to the most recent PPIC Statewide Survey. Housing costs tend to be the biggest concern for most adults—with the exception of African Americans and homeowners.

Across racial/ethnic groups, Asian Americans and Latinos are the most likely to worry about housing or health care; African Americans and Latinos most often worry about paying bills. Renters are more likely than homeowners to worry about all of these financial obligations. As income rises, the share who frequently worry about paying for necessities falls.

Along with essentials, most Californians will encounter an emergency expense at some point. A solid majority of adults (62%) say that it would not be too difficult for them to pay for a $1,000 emergency expense. Last December, slightly fewer Californians (55%) said such an emergency would not be too difficult to cover.

Emergency costs would be somewhat difficult for 22% of Californians—for 17% such costs would be very difficult (10%) or nearly impossible (7%) to pay. Households with annual incomes of less than $40,000 are far more likely than those making more to say paying this expense would be a strain. Notably, in households earning less than $20,000, about three in ten say it would be very difficult; another three in ten say it would be nearly impossible.

Asian Americans and whites are much more likely than Latinos and African Americans to say that such an expense would not be too difficult to pay. A far higher share of homeowners (73%) than renters (46%) say this, and the share who could handle paying for an emergency increases with age and educational attainment.

Consumers are facing record high prices on many holiday food items and products, and many shoppers plan to spend nearly as much as they did last year on gifts. Meanwhile, some Californians may need to decide between buying gifts and paying for every day essentials this season. As the state and nation brace for the potential impacts of the Omicron COVID variant, PPIC will continue to monitor Californians’ financial worries and economic outlook as we enter 2022.


coronavirus COVID-19 Economic Mobility Economy Political Landscape Population racial disparities Statewide Survey