Rent needs higher since COVID in cities with more service workers

May 29, 2020

Rent assistance requests to 2-1-1 helplines since COVID are higher in cities with a larger proportion of workers in personal care and service occupations. Hair stylists, childcare providers, nail salon workers, and other personal care and service workers account for approximately 2.3% of workers nationally, but a much higher percentage in some cities. Their jobs have been among those most impacted by COVID-19. To determine if there is an association between number of jobs in this service sector and need for rent assistance since COVID, we plotted the rate of requests for rent assistance to 2-1-1 helplines from March 12 – May 21 against the percent of the labor force working in the personal care and service industry. We included every Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) covered by a daily 2-1-1 tracking system. As the chart shows, there is a significant positive association: as the percent of the workforce in personal care and service jobs increases, so too does the rate of requests for help paying rent. Compared to MSAs with the smallest percentage of personal care workers (ranking in the bottom 10 percent), MSA with the largest percentage of personal care workers (the top 10 percent) generated nearly 100 more rent requests per 100,000 population. Rate of rent assistance requests per 100,000 population is determined by dividing the number of requests post-COVID period (March 12-May 21, 2020) by 2018 adult population from the American Community Survey (U.S. Census) and multiplying by 100,000. Mouse over the points on the scatter plot to see information for individual MSAs. Labor statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter