Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



How household wellbeing responds to pandemic-induced financial shocks likely depends on whether people undertake certain actions that enhance their ability to withstand adverse economic events, along with their ability to efficiently respond to the shocks when they occur. This paper examines Americans’ financial robustness during the Covid-19 pandemic, using an index of financial resilience and a measure of financial fragility derived from household surveys of persons age 45-75 in spring of 2020, and in May-June 2021. We estimate the factors associated with resilience and fragility in both years, show how these two measures changed a year into the pandemic, and consider whether resilience in 2020 led to better outcomes in 2021. We conclude that higher initial levels of resilience were, in fact, associated with lower levels of financial fragility a year into the pandemic. These findings suggest that policies and programs that enhance financial resilience can help low and moderate-income households withstand economic shocks and be able to better address unexpected income needs.


Financial resilience, poverty dynamics, aging

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. ©2022 Clark and Mitchell. All rights reserved.


This research was performed pursuant to a grant from the Institute of Consumer Money Management; 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 Yong Yu for capable research assistance.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 11 April 2022