How are B.C. households managing their finances through COVID-19? Part II

December 7, 2020
David Williams

This blog further explores survey results on how the pandemic is impacting households’ finances, based on a study conducted by BCBC. [1] In our 24 November 2020 survey of 1,008 households across B.C. (among respondents who are members of the Angus Reid Forum) we asked the following:

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, have you made any of the following financial adjustments?

This blog explores the financial actions taken by B.C. households since mid-March across regions, ages, incomes, education levels and gender.

Household financial changes – by region

Household financial changes are similar across regions (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Household financial changes – by age

Figure 2 shows survey responses by age. The main highlights are:

  • Young households are more likely to have sold assets to generate cash flow or pay down debt, or to have changed their primary residence since mid-March.
  • Young households are much more likely to have received the CERB and other emergency government benefits (as noted in a previous blog).
  • Middle-aged households were more likely than others to defer their mortgage payments.
  • Almost two-in-five older households (55+) have not taken any financial actions.

Figure 2

Household financial changes – by income

Figure 3 shows survey responses by household income level. The main takeaways are:

  • Low- and middle-income B.C. households were more likely to have cut spending on non-essential goods and services, relied on emergency government benefits, or sold assets to generate cash flow or reduce debt.
  • High-income households were more likely to hold more liquid assets (e.g. cash) than normal or to have made no financial changes.

Figure 3

Household financial changes – by education

Figure 4 shows survey responses by household education level. The highlights are:

  • University-educated households are holding more liquid assets than normal.
  • Non-university educated households were likely to have claimed the CERB or other government benefits.
  • High school educated households were the most likely group to have made no financial adjustments.

Figure 4

Household financial changes – by gender

Figure 5 shows survey responses by gender. The main takeaways are:

  • For most responses, there is very little difference between men and women.
  • Men appear to have become more conservative by holding more cash than normal.

Figure 5


Previous BCBC blogs (see Survey One Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Survey Two, Survey Three and Survey Four) have shown that many large B.C. businesses have struggled through COVID-19. In part, that is because of the financial challenges and uncertainty facing some of their customers: British Columbian households.

The most common financial changes made by B.C. households since the onset of the pandemic are cutting non-essential spending, deferring major purchases, and seeking government emergency benefits such as the CERB. There were little or no differences across households by region and gender, but there were modest differences by age, income, and education level.

[1] A survey conducted among a representative sample of n=1,008 British Columbians (age 18+ years.) who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The sample frame was balanced and weighted on age, gender, region, and education. The survey was conducted in English from November 24-25, 2020. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.09 percentage points, 19 times of out 20.

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