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Three in Four Californians Are Worried About Family Illness, Personal Finances during COVID-19 Pandemic

Optimism about State’s Economic Outlook at Lowest Level since Great Recession

Note: The findings below are from PPIC’s latest statewide survey. PPIC will release the full survey later this week, on Wednesday, April 22. The survey report will be available on the PPIC Statewide Survey page.

SAN FRANCISCO, April 20, 2020—As the number of known COVID-19 cases statewide continues to grow, overwhelming majorities of Californians are worried about a family member getting sick or about their personal finances worsening due to the coronavirus.

Asked how worried they are—if at all—about themselves or someone in their family getting sick from the coronavirus, more than three in four Californians say they are either very (41%) or somewhat (37%) worried. Latinos (60%) and Asian Americans (41%) are more likely than whites (28%) and African Americans (22%) to be very worried.

“Most Californians are worried about a family member getting sick from the coronavirus, while Latinos and Asian Americans are especially likely to say they are very worried,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO.

At the same time, three in four Californians say they are either very (41%) or somewhat (34%) worried about the pandemic having a negative impact on their own or their family’s finances. Half (50%) of Californians with annual incomes below $40,000 are very worried, compared with 42 percent of those earning $40,000 to $79,000 and 32 percent of those with incomes of $80,000 or above. Californians with children at home are much more likely to be very worried (55%) than those without (35%).

“Most Californians are worried about the negative financial impact of the pandemic, while half of those with lower incomes and those with children at home say they are very worried,” Baldassare said.

Asked whether worry or stress related to the coronavirus has affected their mental health, 27 percent of Californians say it has had a major negative impact and another 23 percent report a minor negative impact. Adults ages 18 to 34 and ages 35 to 54 are more likely to say it has had a major negative impact (31% of both age groups) than are those age 55 and over (18%). Renters (34%) are more likely than homeowners (21%) to report a major negative impact on mental health.

“Half of Californians say that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health,” Baldassare said. “Younger adults and renters are especially likely to report feeling worry and stress having a major impact.”

PPIC’s survey highlights a steep drop in optimism about California’s economic outlook. Only 19 percent expect good times financially in the state during the next 12 months. This is down from 49 percent in January 2020 and is lower than at any point since the Great Recession.

“The recent decline in consumer confidence as measured in expectations of good economic times is unprecedented in the history of the PPIC survey, dating back to the late 1990s,” Baldassare said.

About a half of Californians (48%) say their lives have been disrupted a lot by the coronavirus outbreak, with another 36 percent reporting some disruption and 12 percent just a little. Across regions, 53 percent in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area say their lives have been disrupted a lot, compared with 49 percent in the Inland Empire, 45 percent in Orange/San Diego, and 36 percent in the Central Valley.

“Nearly all Californians say their lives have been disrupted, while majorities of Los Angeles and Bay Area residents say that things have changed a lot for them as a result of the pandemic,” Baldassare said.

About the Survey

The Californians and Education survey is supported with funding from the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, the Sobrato Family Foundation, and the Stuart Foundation.

The findings presented above are based on responses from 1,633 California adult residents. The sampling error is ±3.3 percent for the total unweighted sample. Interviewing took place on weekend days and weekday nights from April 1–9, 2020. For the full methodology, see this Crosstabs, Time Trends, and Methodology document.

Mark Baldassare is president and CEO of PPIC, where he holds the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Public Policy. He is founder of the PPIC Statewide Survey, which he has directed since 1998.

The Public Policy Institute of California is dedicated to informing and improving public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research. We are a public charity. We do not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor do we endorse, support, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Research publications reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of our funders or of the staff, officers, advisory councils, or board of directors of the Public Policy Institute of California.


Steven Bliss
General Media
Sarah Bardeen
PPIC Water Policy Center Media
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