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Research and Statistics

1 in 4 Americans using stimulus money to pay down debt: Survey

New census data show highest earners who qualified for federal funds were most likely to pay off debt or add to their savings

Summary

Although a majority of Americans who received or are expecting a federal stimulus check say the money will go toward everyday expenses, 1 in 4 say they used at least some of it to pay down debt, according to the U.S. Census.

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Although a majority of Americans who received or are expecting a federal stimulus check say the money will go toward everyday expenses, 1 in 4 say they used at least some of it to pay down debt.

That’s according to the latest installment of the U.S. Census’ Household Pulse Survey, a new experimental data collection project designed to provide weekly insights on how Americans are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was in its seventh week as of mid-June.

Of those who provided a response on how they’ve spent or plan to spend their stimulus check, two thirds (66%) said it would cover food, from grocery shopping to eating out to ordering takeout.

See related: Many Americans plan to spend less after the pandemic than before

About half said they’d apply the funds to their rent or mortgage (51%), and similar proportions said the money would cover utility, internet and cellphone bills (50%) or household supplies and personal care (47%).

Still, a quarter of U.S. adults (25%) indicated at least some of their stimulus check would be used to tackle debt, such as credit card balances and student loans.

Those with household incomes between $75,000 and $99,999 were even more likely than the average household to pay off debt or add to savings, compared to households overall, with more than a third using their stimulus funds for those purposes. In contrast, almost 88% of households with incomes of $25,000 or less planned to spend their stimulus payments on everyday expenses.

The U.S. Census survey was sent to 1.1 million households by email and text messages, with week 7 results collected June 11-16 from 73,472 responding households. The findings were released June 24.

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