May 23, 2022 - COVID

Detroiters' financial recovery from COVID mixed

Detroiters’ experience of major economic challenges, by receipt of stimulus payments
Data: Detroit Metro Area Communities Study; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Nearly a quarter of Detroit residents say their financial situation is better than a year ago, but the same percentage say it's gotten worse.

  • Nearly half of residents surveyed say they're doing about the same financially as a year ago.

Why it matters: Recovery from pandemic financial strife has been uneven. Lower-income Detroiters who make under $30,000 a year are more likely to be worse off than a year ago, University of Michigan researchers found in a recent Detroit Metro Area Communities Study survey.

  • Meanwhile, the survey shows nearly all residents who make more than $60,000 are doing the same or better.

Driving the news: Residents' finances would likely be in worse shape without pandemic stimulus checks and the temporarily-expanded Child Tax Credit.

Zoom in: There's been positive signs, with unemployment recovering more quickly than expected from the devastating 2020 average of 22.1% to an anticipated 9.9% in 2022, according to a February economic outlook report.

Yes, but: Housing costs remain a huge problem for residents, with a third saying they've missed one or more payments in the last year, the recent survey found.

Quick take: Lydia Wileden, a research associate who co-wrote the report, went into the data analysis with two at-odds hypotheses, she tells Axios.

  • In one scenario, COVID-19 could have been a "great equalizer" that shocked the economic system to help reduce inequality, she says.
  • In the other scenario, which now seems to be the more accurate one, "we're actually seeing this pulling apart and reinforcing inequality," Wileden says.

The bottom line: Researchers aren't able to clearly see how people would have fared financially without support during the pandemic like stimulus payments and nonprofit sector assistance, Wileden adds, making it difficult to know how much worse things may have been.

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