Prices pick up as Americans worry over household spending

Americans feel the inflation pressures just as many families across the country receive their child tax credits from the American Rescue Plan.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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July 27 – Americans feel the inflation pressures just as many families across the country receive their child tax credits from the American Rescue Plan. Meanwhile, students reflect on a year (and then some) of online learning. Plus, keep reading for a special on pandemic pets.

Stories this week:

School and children:

The Delta variant:

Pet owners and the pandemic:

Americans are more stressed about household spending

Against a backdrop of rising consumer prices, Americans express more trepidation about making major and other household purchases. This decline in sentiment is driven primarily by low and moderate-income Americans, while a majority of those earning $100,000 and above remain comfortable with household spending as a whole.

Both car and home prices soared in recent months. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who currently say they are comfortable with making a major purchase (ie., a home or a car) slipped below half for the first time since March in the most recent wave of the Forbes Advisor/Ipsos consumer confidence tracker. This could be indicative of worries that the Delta variant will delay a full economic rebound, that Americans earning under $100,000 are feeling squeezed out of these markets, or some mix of the two.

Comfort with making non-major purchases tends to be higher generally, but it too has experienced a decline back to levels last seen in March and April, most notably among Americans who earn less than $50,000.

Americans say basics are getting pricier

At the same time that Americans grow less comfortable with household spending, a majority share the view that the essentials are more expensive now than they were at the start of 2021. Eight in ten say they think that gasoline prices are higher, while seven in ten say they think that groceries cost more now, according to the most recent wave of the Ipsos Consumer COVID tracker.


Most parents plan to save child tax credits or use them for basic household needs

About two in five parents who received or should receive a child tax credit are planning on using it for basic household needs, like paying for food or putting money towards their rent or mortgage. An equal share expects to save the tax credit for future use, similar to how Americans spent their most recent stimulus checks.

The child tax credit expands the credit families get on their taxes, providing them with more money distributed throughout the year through monthly payments sent by the IRS. The initiative is part of the American Rescue Plan and larger pandemic recovery effort that President Biden signed into law earlier in the year.

Black students feel positively about online learning, but still report more challenges with accessing resources

Two in three Black students had an excellent or good experience in their online courses, 18-points ahead of white students, in the latest edition of the Sallie Mae/Ipsos: How America Pays for College.

Yet, Black students, more so than white students, reported more problems with accessing resources to learn online. Over one in four felt that they didn’t have access to the tools or technology they need, 11-points ahead of white students.

As schools prepare to welcome students back, many are hoping for a full year of in person rather than online learning. But the prospect of switching to hybrid learning looms large as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Where Delta variant concern is highest

Currently, hotspots like Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are among the most concerned about the Delta variant.

Still, less than half of the people in this region are worried about the Delta variant. But concern is less heightened in neighboring states like Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. This is despite the fact caseloads are surging throughout these southern states, as COVID strikes the unvaccinated pockets of the country.

Single pet-owners are more likely to have a cat than married pet-owners

Three in five American households have at least one pet, and of these, 70% say they have a dog and 46% say they have a cat. Men and women show little difference in pet preference overall – seven in ten of both genders say they have a dog, and just under half say they have a cat.

But this changes when marital status is added into the mix. While dogs are still more popular than cats, single Americans of both genders are a little more likely to have a cat than their married peers. In fact, unmarried men have a slight edge on unmarried women on cat ownership (57% vs. 52%).

The pandemic inspired parents and renters to get pets

Around one in five Americans got a pet for the first time in the pandemic, according to Ipsos polling. Of this group, younger generations, parents and renters were among the most likely to get a pandemic pet. Among people without children, 17% of renters versus 11% of homeowners got a pet.

These broader trends track with reports from the pandemic, when so many people were seeking out pet companionship during lockdown that adoptions became a competitive process. Pet ownership rose to an all-time high in 2020.

The author(s)

  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist
  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs