Winners and losers in the COVID economy

A blogger who calls himself Nikolai Vladivostok posted this chart. It shows what people in different segments of the U.S. population say about whether they’re worse off or better off.

People whose income was $100,000 a year were, on average, very happy with their situations. So were those with post-graduate educations.

The unhappiest were people whose income was $50,000 a year or less. Women on average were unhappier than men.

I was a little surprised that city residents were happier than suburbanites. I always thought of U.S. suburbanites as affluent and pleased with themselves. I guess that thinking is out of date.

You might wonder how much of this is due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and how much would be true in any year. Nikolai Vladivostok found some other charts illustrating how hard the pandemic has been on different income groups.  Having a low-income job is a risk factor.


I’m an 84-year-old retiree who lives alone.  My income from Social Security, a company pension and savings is sufficient for my needs and wants.  I’m psychologically and economically in a position to live the life of a semi-recluse. 

But people I depend upon for my well-being—delivering my groceries, providing me with my medications, picking up my trash, keeping the electric power grid running—are at risk, and very often paid less.  This isn’t right.

As these examples show, it is impossible to have a total lockdown, except for very short periods of time.  Forbidding businesses to operate or individuals to earn a living, without providing a means to tide them over, has has pushed millions into bankruptcy or to the edge of bankruptcy.

Maybe it was necessary.  I’m not ready to say it wasn’t.  I take the infection risk seriously. 

Until the pandemic is over, I don’t plan to go shopping in a store, eat a meal in a restaurant, watch a movie in a theater or travel by airplane, regardless of what governments permit or don’t permit. 

GIven what the actuarial tables say about people my age, I may never do any of these things again.  I don’t know how many people there are like me. 

But I know there are many millions who are not like me, people who are caught between the risk of hunger and homelessness and the risk of sickness and death.  They should not be ignored.  They can’t be ignored.

For the sake of justice, and also social peace, we need two things.  One is that the people who risk infection to carry on the necessary work of society should be given livable wages and basic minimum safety protections. 

The other is that people who are denied the right to operate businesses or work for those businesses be given enough so that they don’t go broke or bankrupt before the pandemic ends.

Maybe the new vaccines will bring the pandemic to an end soon.  Otherwise big trouble is certain.  Big trouble may be in store anyhow.


One chart to explain it all by “Nikolai Vladivostok” for SovietMen.

An Inaugural Inflection Point: Ushering in a New Era of Marketing Amid a Polarized Public by Victoria Sakal for Morning Consult.

How Monopolies Slowed the Vaccine Rollout, and Small Business Speeded It Up on BIG by Matt Stoller.  [Added 1/27/2021]

2020 in Review: Workers Struggle Under the Weight of the Pandemic by Dan Dimaggio and Saurev Sarkar for Labor Notes.

Here’s Why the People Who Pick Our Food Are Going Hungry During the Pandemic by Allison Salerno for In These Times.

Chicago Teachers Union votes to defy district’s reopening orders over pandemic concerns by Justine Coleman for The Hill.

Strikes during the COVID-19 pandemic on Wikipedia.

Protests over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wikipedia.

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