TIAA Perspectives

Wealth gap survey: COVID-19 has exacerbated economic inequality in the United States

Over 1,000 Americans weighed in on how COVID-19 has affected their finances and how they’ll save or spend in the future. More than half of U.S. adults consider their household finances changed for better or worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 1
The survey results revealed that 29% of all adults were worse off financially due to the pandemic, but 24% were better off. When looking at income level, the survey revealed a sharp contrast between two income groups as those earning less were more likely to say they were worse off financially than those in a higher income bracket.
Survey respondents Better off Worse off
Adults with income less than $50,000 19% 37%
Adults with income above $100,000 35% 15%

57% of those less well off say nothing will change or that their finances will continue to worsen over the next year.

When restrictions are lifted, Americans across the board overwhelmingly want to make up for “lost time,” but 26% of those who have suffered financially since last year say they have “no idea” how they will pay for their post COVID 19 plans.
Key Insights

Respondents to the survey expressed broad support for increasing their savings and
a desire for lifetime income in retirement.


Emergency fund

75% of those better off and 70% of those worse off expressed a greater importance on creating an emergency fund.


72% of those doing well after COVID and 60% doing worse now want to save more for retirement.

Guaranteed lifetime income

73% of Americans, especially those less well off, say having guaranteed monthly income for retirement is important.
Read the full survey results here.
1 KRC Research conducted the TIAA Financial Habits study using an online survey of 1,003 Americans ages 18 and over, living in the United States. The study was fielded between February 19 22, 2021. Completed interviews are weighted by age, sex, region, race and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population
This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.
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