The K-shaped holidays: The affluent are spending more as the poor cut back

November 23, 2020, 12:00 AM UTC

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Low-paid service workers were the most likely to see their jobs cut during the pandemic. That lopsided economic blow has created something of a K-shaped economy, where the poor are worse off while the affluent, in many cases, are seeing their net worths increase thanks to a record stock market.

But is the uneven COVID-19 economy translating into a divided holiday season? To find out, Fortune and Civis Analytics teamed up to survey 10,063 adults in the U.S. between September 11 and November 9.*

As a whole, holiday spending should look a lot like 2019. Among all U.S. adults, 29% say they plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year, 30% plan to spend less, and 41% plan to spend about the same as they did last year. 

But the top line figures don’t tell the whole story: While 46% of families earning $150,000 or more are increasing their holiday spending this year, only 22% of families earning $25,000 to $50,000 are planning increases. 

Among families earning $150,000 or more only 20% plan to cut back on holiday spending this year. Meanwhile, 40% of families earning $25,000 to $50,000 are planning to spend less this year on holiday spending.

The financial strain at the lower rungs of the economic ladder won’t go away time soon. The reason? Many of these lower paid jobs have yet to return. Look no further than the 16.3% unemployment rate for leisure and hospitality jobs, a sector dominated by lower-paid service jobs. That compares to the national rate of 6.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

*Methodology: The Fortune-Civis Analytics poll was conducted among a national sample of 10,063 adults in the U.S. between September 11 and November 9. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.


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