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Updated on May 17, 2024
Updates quarterly

Quarterly Survey of Household Emergency Expenses and Decisionmaking

Consumers are more capable of paying their emergency expenses
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Share of U.S. adults who said they would pay for a $400 emergency expense in the ways above based on their current financial situation. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Source: Morning Consult Economic Intelligence

Morning Consult surveys approximately 10,000 U.S. adults each quarter on their households’ capacity to absorb emergency expenses and related economic decisions. 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 on 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

  • U.S. adults’ perceived and actual capacity to absorb emergency expenses increased from Q1 to Q2 2024 in a positive sign for household financial security.

  • The apparent improvements in budgetary resilience have taken place despite emergency expenses occurring more frequently and with the cost of these expenses soaring higher.

  • Not all groups have shared equally in the overall improvement in consumer financial situations: Low-income adults facing unexpected emergency expenses increasingly relied on debt, spending cutbacks and savings drawdowns to make ends meet.

Data Downloads

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Ability to Cover an Emergency Expense With Cash

Shares of U.S. adults who said their household would cover a $400 emergency expense using only cash and equivalent, by annual household income
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Source: Morning Consult Economic Intelligence

Download the Expanded Report

A companion quarterly report with more analysis on both the hypothetical $400 emergency expense as well as actual unexpected expenses that respondents faced is available here.

Source of This Data

Methodology

The Morning Consult Quarterly Survey of Household Emergency Expenses and Decisionmaking relies on data collected through Morning Consult’s proprietary survey research capabilities. The interviews were conducted online in April 8- 15, 2024, and the data is weighted to approximate a representative sample of U.S. adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race and region. Results from the full survey have a quarterly sample size of approximately 10,000 U.S. adults and an unweighted margin of error of +/- 1 percentage point.

“Cash and cash equivalent” includes paying with cash, with money in a checking/savings account or putting the expense on a credit card and paying it in full at the next statement. “Noncash equivalent” includes putting the expense on a credit card and paying it off over time, using money from a bank loan or line of credit, borrowing from a friend or family member, selling something, or using a payday loan, deposit advance or overdraft.

About Morning Consult

Morning Consult is a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act. Learn more at morningconsult.com.

Email [email protected] to speak with a member of the Morning Consult team.

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]

Sofia Baig
Economist

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]