Most Americans Prioritize Their Health During the Pandemic

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Are the social and economic costs of physical distancing measures justified by the health benefits of limiting COVID-19 transmission? To better understand how Americans weigh health against other priorities, RAND and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conducted a survey of American health attitudes during COVID-19.

As has been widely reported, the health and economic burdens of COVID-19 have fallen most heavily on poor, non-white populations—those who are more likely to hold jobs that cannot be done remotely, or who live in crowded housing, or who lack access to high-quality healthcare. We designed our sample to emphasize the perspectives of these populations: 59 percent of respondents identified themselves as non-white, and 44 percent reported an annual income of less than $50,000. The survey was fielded during the summer of 2020 and provides an important first look at the issue of health priorities, liberty, and the economy.

Survey respondents placed a high priority on health, even where it implies limitations to their liberty and to the economy.

Overall, survey respondents placed a high priority on health, even where it implies limitations to their liberty and to the…



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