2024 Q1 Report: How U.S. Households Handle Emergency Expenses

February 2024

Report summary

This report highlights key findings from the latest wave of Morning Consult’s Quarterly Survey of Household Emergency Expenses and Decisionmaking. The report complements the data and analysis available on Morning Consult’s SHEED website.

The first section of the survey replicates questions from the “Dealing With Unexpected Expenses” section of the Federal Reserve’s annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, which poses hypothetical questions about how consumers would respond to an emergency expense. The second section of Morning Consult’s survey focuses on actual outcomes reported by consumers who experienced emergency expenses, allowing for comparison between theoretical and observed behaviors.

Key Takeaways

  • After declining through the second half of 2023, the share of adults paying for emergency expenses with cash or equivalents increased in the first quarter.
  • Ability to pay for unexpected expenses increased across most demographics, but higher earners and older adults are most prepared to weather emergency costs.
  • After several quarters of increased debt reliance, a higher share of GenZ adults reported covering their emergency expenses with cash rather than some sort of debt.

Data Downloads

Pro+ and Economic Intelligence subscribers are able to download the datasets that underpin this report and analysis. Contact us to get access.

Trended Data File
A sortable CSV file of survey results, including all historical waves, among Morning Consult’s standard demographics
About Pro+
A brief outline of what datasets are included in Morning Consult Pro+

About the authors

A headshot photograph of Sofia Baig
Sofia Baig

Sofia Baig is an economist at decision intelligence company Morning Consult, where she works on descriptive and predictive analysis that leverages Morning Consult’s proprietary high-frequency data. Previously, she worked for the Federal Reserve Board as a quantitative analyst, focusing on topics related to monetary policy and bank stress testing. She received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Pomona College and a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics from Georgetown University.

Follow her on Twitter @_SofiaBaig_For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected]

A headshot photograph of Kayla Bruun
Kayla Bruun
Senior Economist

Kayla Bruun is a senior economist at decision intelligence company Morning Consult, where she analyzes consumer spending, inflation and household finance trends, leveraging the company’s proprietary high-frequency data.

Prior to joining Morning Consult, Kayla was a key member of the corporate strategy team at telecommunications company SES, where she produced market intelligence and industry analysis of mobility markets. 

Kayla also served as an economist at IHS Markit, where she covered global services industries, provided price forecasts, produced written analyses and served as a subject-matter expert on client-facing consulting projects. 

Kayla earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Emory University and an MBA with a certificate in nonmarket strategy from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Follow her on Twitter @KaylaBruun. For speaking opportunities and booking requests, please email [email protected]