Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the US economy was closed to limit the virus’ spread, and several emergency interventions were implemented. Our analysis of older (45-75) respondents fielded in April-May of 2020 indicates that about one in five respondents was financially fragile and would have difficulty facing a mid-size emergency expense. Some subgroups were at particular risk of facing financial difficulties, especially younger respondents, those with larger families, Hispanics, and the low income. Moreover, the more financially literate were better able to handle such shocks, indicating that knowledge can provide some additional protection during a pandemic.


Financial literacy, financial resilience, older population, vulnerable groups

JEL Code

G53, D14, I38

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy any institutions with which the authors are affiliated. ©2020 Clark, Lusardi, and Mitchell. All rights reserved.


This research was performed pursuant to a grant from the ICMM; the authors also acknowledge support from the Pension Research Council/Boettner Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The authors thank Patrick Royal and Nikhil Yagnik for expert research assistance, and Tania Gutsche and Yong Yu for invaluable help with the project. Lee Lockwood provided helpful comments at the 2021 ASSA meetings.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 02 November 2020