The Effects of COVID-19 on U.S. Small Businesses: Evidence from Owners, Managers, and Employees
41 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2020 Last revised: 12 Jul 2021
Date Written: September 10, 2020
We analyze a large-scale survey of small business owners, managers, and employees in the United States to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on those businesses. We explore two waves of the survey that were fielded on Facebook in April 2020 and December 2020. We document five facts about the impact of the pandemic on small businesses. (1) Larger firms, older firms, and male-owned firms were more likely to remain open during the early stages of the pandemic, with many of these heterogeneities persisting through the end of 2020. (2) At businesses that remained open, concerns about demand shocks outweighed concerns about supply shocks, though the relative importance of supply shocks grew over time. (3) In response to the pandemic, almost a quarter of the firms reduced their prices, with price reductions concentrated among businesses facing financial constraints and demand shocks; almost no firms raised prices. (4) Only a quarter of small businesses had access to formal sources of financing at the start of the pandemic, and access to formal financing affected how firms responded to the pandemic. (5) Increased household responsibilities affected the ability of managers and employees to focus on their work, while increased business responsibilities impacted their ability to take care of their household members. This effect persisted through December 2020 and was particularly strong for women and parents of school-aged children. We discuss how these facts inform our understanding of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can help design policy responses to similar shocks.
Keywords: Small Businesses, COVID-19, Working from Home, Small Business Finance
JEL Classification: E3, L26, M13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation