*Working Paper Global Policy Initiatives

Household Spending Patterns and Hardships during COVID-19: A Comparative Study of the U.S. and Israel

The combined supply and demand shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic have created the largest shift in consumer behavior in recent history, while exposing millions of households to material hardships like food insecurity and housing instability. In this study, we draw on national surveys conducted early in the pandemic to investigate the COVID-19’s effects on self-reported consumer spending behaviors and experiences of hardship for households in Israel and the U.S.; two developmentally similar countries that have had divergent experiences with and responses to the pandemic. We also examine the extent to which racial/ethnic/religious minority status and pre-pandemic employment characteristics predict these outcomes. Using descriptive and logistic regression approaches, we find that housing expenditures were fairly stable in the U.S. and Israel, while food and credit card payment expenditures were relatively volatile. We also find that food insecurity was much higher in the U.S. than Israel, while indicators of housing volatility are similar between the two countries. Generally speaking, racial/ethnic/religious minorities in both countries were more likely to experience spending volatility, while Black and Hispanic (in the U.S.) and Arab (in Israel) households were more likely to experience hardships. Employment and financial characteristics also appear much more predictive of hardship in the U.S. than in Israel.


Roll, Stephen; Chan, Yung; Kondratjeva, Olga; Despard, Mathieu; and Grinstein-Weiss, Michal, “Household Spending Patterns and Hardships during COVID-19: A Comparative Study of the U.S. and Israel” (2021). Social Policy Institute Research. 44. https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/spi_research/44