Osei Dwomoh, Maymunah Issabre, Amanda Asare, Jennifer Abdelsayed, Magdlina Khalil.
Lab #15: (The Conscious Collective)
Abstract– Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. economy has been heavily impacted, which has further affected consumers. This study examined the effects COVID-19 had on the nation’s economy and day-to-day life. People ranging from various backgrounds and ages were asked multiple survey questions about their observations on the day to items and how prices may have been changed. We predicted that many would respond that prices have increased dramatically and at an alarming rate. Since the pandemic occurred in March 2020 prices have slowly been trending upward leading to a significant effect on today’s inflation which is consistent with recent research.
Keywords– inflation, COVID-19, pandemic, consumer, commodities
In December 2019, COVID-19 arose as a new infectious disease that caused serious illnesses such as pneumonia and even death. This new illness first occurred in Wuhan, China as many had high fevers, coughs, and shortness of breath. In January 2020 this disease affected multiple countries in the span of a few weeks. The number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases is at a significant and alarming rate leading the world into a pandemic in March 2020. As a result, lockdowns, social-distancing rules, wearing masks, and restrictions were enforced, evolving into a public health and economic crisis. In response to the spread and the precautions taken to keep everyone healthy and protected this in turn took a toll on the prices of many categories. Food consumption had a drastic change as restaurants were struggling to breathe as the shift to staying at home began. Government policy responses left unfortunate effects on consumer prices.
At first, when the lockdown was first introduced there was an increase in food spending due to stockpiling because many were panicking. However, issues with supply chains occurred, and limitations on labor and a lower demand rate began to occur in turn making agricultural and food prices skyrocket in many countries (Bernstein, Tedeschi). Fresh produce is already a staple that is sensitive to change and with this abrupt change, the prices of these products heightened. Enriquez and Goldstein conducted a survey showing that low-income families faced financial difficulties during the pandemic. These rising prices for basic commodities and necessities have taken a heavy toll on many households. The economic halt and lifestyle changes corresponded to the closure of multiple businesses affecting the employment and income of many.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
An online survey on the impact of inflation through a Google Form was conducted to collect accurate and reliable data. The Conscious Collective utilizes multiple media platforms to promote the survey allowing for a larger demographic to share their opinion. Social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook. Interested participants were informed that this survey was part of a research project and all participants did not have to participate if they did not desire to. Our study does include minors who were asked to get permission from a parent or guardian before continuing with the survey. All collected data were reported anonymously so that all respondents can be comfortable expressing their thoughts on the topic freely.
To fully understand how inflation impacted daily commodities due to COVID-19, we asked several people to answer the following questions so that they may recall the differences they have noticed before and after the pandemic:
- Have you done any shopping recently and have you noticed any differences in prices?
- How much do you agree that tax relief programs helped during the pandemic and this inflation?
- Have you noticed difficulty in paying rent and mortgage?
- Do you own a gas-powered car?
- Are you able to buy gas? Have you noticed a difference before the inflation?
- Have you noticed changes in the way you are spending your money on groceries?
- Recently, President Biden made a speech about reducing inflation and politicians talked about the Inflation Reduction Act. Are you hoping for it to be effective when it’s passed?
For each question, the respondents were asked to recall pre- and during COVID expenditures. The questions surround the change in purchase due to pricing and other factors.
Using the 66 responses gathered from respondents across the United States, a variety of variables were examined for trends and patterns.
This graph illustrates the sum of how the pandemic impacted the overall health of people in 2022. Below we can see that the pandemic has impacted everyone in a series of levels varying from not at all with a percentage of 14.3, to having a heavy impact of 35.7 (the combination of “tremendously” and “a lot”). The pandemic brought many changes to each individual’s life as it altered daily routines, isolation, anxiety, sickness, and much more pressures and worries. As a result, with the constant worry about getting sick and keeping family members safe and healthy; stress, sadness, and fear arose impacting health. These sudden changes and other effects this disease brings along if affected can lead to diminishing overall health. This is evidently proven in the data collected as over half of the people responded that they felt an impact on their health.
Here is a clear image that depicts the correlation between inflation prices with families’ ability to buy groceries as easily as they used to before the pandemic. Only 8% of participants stated they have not increased their spending on groceries. While a great percentage of them 85.5% to be exact have had to spend more than usual to put food on the table. In the middle of March 2020, mandates were enforced for the closure of non-essential business, limitations on gathering, cancellation of events, and many more restrictions. These restrictions put businesses and their owners in possession of loss resulting in the loss of employment and income. As a result, a recession occurred in turn leading to sky-high prices. As the world is starting to emerge in a “pre-pandemic” era consumer prices have been high as many facilities are still in need of workers or certain items are taking longer to be shipped and many more factors. Low-income households have been shown to have higher rates of inflation than higher-income households according to Cavallo.
Above is the representation of the total sum of people for Product A (People who are currently employed) and Product B (People who lost their jobs). In 2020, Product A: 78.7% of People were currently employed while 21.3% of the people were unemployed. In product B, from the start of the pandemic until now, 17.4% lost their jobs while 82.6% are still working. Unemployment rates rose rapidly in March 2020 and suppressed the great recession as many were leaving the labor force (Falk et al., 2020). Many businesses at the beginning of the pandemic had to scale back on their normal workplace operations for the health and safety of others, resulting in forcing workers to look for new jobs. COVID caused a drop in consumer demand in all industrial sectors resulting in an economic recession and a high rate of unemployment (Petterson et al., 2020).
The pie chart above represents the total sum of people who agreed that the relief programs helped them during the pandemic. Above we came to know that it was helpful to a percentage of 24.6 %, and of little help to 43.5% which means it was not effective in helping families. Starting in March 2020, congress passed many laws such as the CARES Act to provide tax relief as a result of the economic burden the pandemic had bought into our lives. These fiscal packages are primarily implemented to ease the sudden drop in economic activity and households. Although some may view these policies as not extensive and beneficial, they were meant as short-term support to some.
The pie chart above represents the total sum of people who had difficulty paying for rent or Mortgage. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, 31.9% of people had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage, 53.6% of people had no difficulty paying their rent, and 14% of people were in between being able to pay and not being able to pay for their mortgage. Incomes fell for most during the pandemic causing a burden on monthly rent. These burdens were greatly seen in people of color, lower incomes, and younger people. Despite many trying to pay rent with these financial hardships most fell behind on payments. Cornelissen and Hermann found that 52 percent of renters in relation to 39 percent of homeowners have lost employment incomes.
The pie chart above shows the number of participants who owned a gas-powered car, the total percentage being 53.6%, and of that calculated data 29.8% are not able to purchase gas. In product, A more of the people had a gas-powered car while in Product B a percentage of those who do own a car are not able to afford gas.
The bar graph represents the total aggregated data on families’ abilities to maintain the basic needs of a typical family. For instance, about 48.7% of participants struggle to purchase gas, which makes it difficult for individuals to rely on private transportation. Furthermore, this chart shows that the struggle to purchase food and groceries is the second most common difficulty at 35.3%. Families are having the least struggle with insurance, with its percentage being at 14%.
–Interpretation of the Results and Implications
The analysis of the above graphs revealed different discussion points relevant to how covid inflations have impacted our access to goods and services. Inflation is a rising threat to poor and vulnerable communities causing difficulties in obtaining items that may have been easy to access before. Firstly, as seen in Figure 1.1 the pandemic and the inflation that soon followed have taken their toll on many individuals and families. Results varying from the pandemic have little to no impact on the participants, however to some individuals it has had an enormous impact. Furthermore, according to Figure 1.4, The pandemic has hurt individuals with many losing their jobs and prices heading nowhere but skyrocketing. Brent H. Meyer, Brian Prescott, and Xuguang Simon Sheng state, “Amid supply chain disruptions and widespread shutdowns, production has been crimped. However, demand appears to have taken a bigger hit, as those emergency shutdowns have also left households shuttered in their homes, consumer spending has fallen dramatically, and business investment spending has dried up” (The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business expectations). This statement indicates that when the pandemic began it took a devastating turn for the worst, many businesses were lost and a huge number of people were faced with food insecurities. As an increased number of businesses shut down, it would cause people not to earn enough to provide for their families. Carosa quoted Saunders stating that “Prices are increasing simply due to a mismatch in the supply and demand of goods”. For figure 1.6, The pandemic made it challenging for individuals to afford gas which is an essential need when traveling to places they desired to go. Families are no longer able to enjoy quality family time taking road trips and such, due to the inability to continuously purchase gas at such horrific costs. This is substantiated in the article when Thomas Barrabi states, “The survey found that 57% of Americans were likely to take fewer trips this summer due to the record gas prices, while 54% said they would take shorter trips”. In figure 1.6, 29.8% of people claimed they were unable to purchase gas. With these persistent high prices, it can hurt households as wages are not compensating for these extreme changes. The financial crisis that was set on by this pandemic has made an impact on every one in one way or the other, from being able to put food on the table to not having the ability to enjoy long road trips with your family just because you can’t afford the sudden increase in prices.
–Limitations of Study
There may have been some limitations that did impact the results of the study. As we were expecting to finish our research project in such a short timeframe, the data we were able to secure within the time to be transformed into our organized data was limited to individuals living in New York. We utilized the tools we had close by. Through the means of social media platforms, we were able to reach a larger audience. Despite the limited responses of 66 respondents, we were able to gain insight into the true effects the pandemic and inflation have had on individuals through our organized data.
COVID-19 has had major effects on the world in multiple aspects. This pandemic greatly halted employment, academics, the economy, and much more. As a team, we sought to dive deeper into the effects the pandemic had on this recent inflation. We conducted a survey and collected data from a wide range of participants. Our findings indicate that the coronavirus pandemic did have a negative effect on the ability to purchase and access certain items. The completion of this data analysis was to pinpoint issues families have faced due to the sudden onset of the increase in prices. This study focused on the premise that the lockdown and unexpected pandemic caused untenable living costs. Resulting in the difficulty of obtaining commodities through various economic groups. COVID-19 negatively impacted the nation’s economy and the affordability of certain day-to-day items. Although we did have some limitations this did not greatly impact our study. We hope to improve for the future by creating a survey that is more accessible to more of the public and has a deadline for final submissions. Also, we hope to expand this more to not only people from the United States but rather everyone around the world. In doing so we can offer the survey in multiple languages a more accessible means other than just social media. This survey and study was our first step in exploring the effects coronavirus has had on the nation and the people. We plan to research more into how this pandemic affected other communities.
We show gratification towards Mentoring in Medicine Inc. for providing the resources and leadership necessary to collect sufficient data for analysis and to synthesize this data into a coherent paper. We also thank Mr. Andrew Morrison and the MIM Leadership Team for leading this internship under which the paper was written and providing a timeline for its publication.
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