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New Report: Most Black Americans Say They Can Meet Basic Needs Financially But Still Experience Economic Insecurity

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a financially scary time for most. But according to a new survey done by Pew Research Center, a majority of Black adults say their household finances meet basic needs with either a little or a lot left over for extras. 

Still, the average white family’s wealth is eight times higher than the wealth of an average Black family, according to the Federal Reserve.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 national Black poverty rate was more than double the white poverty rate in the U.S. (roughly 22 percent compared to 9 percent, respectively), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

There were still about two-in-ten Black adults with lower incomes (18 percent) who didn’t have enough to meet basic needs. Four in ten (43 percent) describe their household finances as just meeting their basic needs. At the same time, most Black adults with middle and upper incomes say their household finances cover basic needs with some left over for extras. Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) of Black adults with middle incomes say this, as do 93 percent of Black adults with upper incomes. 

To meet these needs, many of the adults hold multiple jobs.

Even though the respondents said they can meet basic needs, the survey also found that Black Americans tend to have higher levels of economic insecurity than other Americans. 

The survey revealed that most Black adults do not have an emergency fund. Just 36 percent say they have an emergency or rainy day fund to cover three months of expenses in case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn, or other emergencies. But there are wide disparities across family income tiers and educational attainment levels.

But the more money respondents took home, the more likely they were to have an emergency fund. Seven in ten Black adults with upper incomes say they have an emergency or rainy day fund to cover three months of expenses in case of an emergency, more than three times the share (21 percent) of Black adults with lower incomes who say the same. Few Black adults with middle incomes have an emergency fund, fewer than half (44 percent).

The survey also finds Black Americans are less secure in their finances than Americans overall: 60 percent of Black Americans say their household finances meet basic needs with at least a little left over for extras, compared with 71 percent of all Americans. Similarly, while 36 percent of Black Americans have a three-month emergency fund, 54 percent of all Americans say they have one. Similar gaps between the groups exist across all major demographic subgroups.

Read: Are People Running Out of Money? More Americans Report Having Trouble Paying Basic Bills

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