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Tracking COVID-19's Impact


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One of our initial goals was to understand if self-reported symptoms could serve as an early warning indicator for regional case growth. It turns out that attitudes regarding mask-wearing and social distancing may be at least as important.

David B. Rein, Program Area Director
Public Health Analytics

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the physical, emotional, economic, and social health of Americans in ways we will be studying for years to come. To ensure that the complex and widespread impacts of the pandemic are measured with the speed and accuracy policymakers need to mount an effective response, the Data Foundation has partnered with NORC to conduct the COVID Impact Survey. The survey provides national and regional statistics about physical health, mental health, economic security, and social dynamics. National data are collected using the AmeriSpeak Panel, NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population, with a target of achieving 2,000 interviews each week. An additional address-based probability sample generates regional estimates for 10 states and eight metropolitan areas each week.

In many respects, COVID-19 is a local story. Because of its design, the COVID Impact Survey has revealed tremendous differences in the impact the outbreak is having depending on where you live. For example, the study reveals that 5 percent of Americans and 17 percent of New York state residents had lost a loved one or close friend to COVID-19 or respiratory illness.

Eleven percent of African Americans say they were close with someone who has died from the coronavirus, compared with 4% of white Americans.

Scholars at the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project have already used data from the COVID Impact Survey to explore the pandemic’s impact on food insecurity, particularly for families with young children, and researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis used COVID Impact Survey data to assess socioeconomic disparities in the pandemic’s impact.