Grade 9-12

The Economic Impact of the Crisis: Why Doesn’t COVID-19 Affect Everyone Equally?

Time: 90 mins,
Updated: November 10 2022,


Students will be able to:

  • Explain the immediate universal impact the virus had on our economy and way of life.
  • Understand that a significant number of American households were distressed financially before the pandemic.
  • Recognize that the recovery from the pandemic has been very disparate creating different experiences along multiple demographic and economic lines.

In this economics lesson plan, students explore how dissimilar financial circumstances of US households affects their recovery.


The recession that arrived on the coattails of the COVID-19 virus is unique because of the starkly contrasting experiences Americans are having during the pandemic. Recessions typically illuminate the income and human capital disparities that exist in our stratified economy, but generally all parties experience some economic hardship. In this case from an income angle, certain segments of society have seen their wealth augmented while others have suffered devastating financial losses that could alter the trajectory of their lives for years. There is no question that the health effects and loss of life have been felt universally. But the bifurcated economic impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented.


Warm Up

Explain to the students that they are going to explore the reasons why the pandemic has affected the financial well-being of households differently. The impact of the pandemic will make recovery more challenging for those already facing the greatest adversity.

Group Activity

Based on the number of laptops in the classroom, divide the students into pairs (preferable) or groups of three. Each group should have a copy of the multimedia text set on the screen and each student should have a copy of the Class notes sheet. Read the instructions in the class notes together with the students so that they clearly understand the freedom and latitude they have in exploring the text set. Emphasize the eight-minute time limit but also the randomness they can follow. Go over the multimedia text set (MMTS), click on a few links, and demonstrate that the students may look at the information in any order. They should always keep the essential question in their minds, but it is up to them to decide what evidence is most compelling. They may decide how they will work with their partners. Emphasize that they should not feel the need to hit each station on the document today. Remind the students that they should write down their discoveries on the notes sheet provided. The first box on the class note sheet provides suggestions for their line of inquiry. If all is clear, then give the students the remainder of the period to sift through the MMTS.

While students are exploring the multimedia text set, the teacher is free to connect with students and move around the classroom. During this time, study the students while they explore in order to conduct a formative assessment on student learning. Specifically,

  1. During the first 5 minutes or so, walk around to observe which resources most students go to first.
  2. Once students are all set in full exploration mode, the teacher should take in a panoramic view of the classroom.
  3. Decide, based on the observations, which groups to check in with first or plan for who you may need to connect with.
  4. The goal is to have purposeful conversations with students in 3-5 minutes to formatively assess their understanding and to inspire them with a purpose for exploring or learning. Ask questions of the students to accomplish this, many questions are possible but here are a few suggestions.

Questions about the process of learning:

  • What links did you explore first?
  • Which resource is getting you thinking?
  • What is it about this resource that drew you to learn from it?
  • What kind of multimedia resources do you prefer to learn from?
  • Which media source is giving you new ideas?
  • Which media source was easiest for you to learn from?

Questions about the content:

  • What are you finding interesting about this topic?
  • What questions do you have about this topic?
  • What do you want to know more about in relation to this topic?
  • Looking back, what new ideas are you having?
  • Lingering questions about this content?

Have students complete the unfinished portion of the text set class notes for homework. Request that they bring their completed assignment to class the next time it convenes.

Multimedia Text Set Brief Descriptions:
The following is a summary of what students will find within each of the boxes on the MMTS.

  • Engage: A Marketplace podcast (2 ½ minutes) highlighting communities hit by the pandemic that were already impoverished.
  • Watch: An animated map by PBS NewsHour shows a real-time chronology of the spreading of the virus.
  • Observe: An infographic by Visual Capitalist illustrates the letter shapes recoveries in a business cycle can resemble.
  • Explore: A relatively long article by The Center of Budget and Policy Priorities that describes the unequal impact of the Covid-19 recession on food, housing, and employment.
  • Learn: Urban maps by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health illustrate the disparity in well-being that occurs within the same metropolitan area.
  • Examine: A report by the Economic Innovation Group on the large segments of the U.S. that suffered economic distress prior to Covid.
  • Context: An eight-minute video from CBS News Sunday Morning illustrates the years of growing income inequality in the U.S. The systemic inequality has left large segments of the population ill-equipped to sustain during the pandemic.
  • Question: An interactive map of the U.S. looking at the unemployment and benefit differences in many of the states.
  • Explain: A medium-sized article from USA Today on the contrast of a spike in home buying in the face of millions receiving eviction notices from their landlords.
  • Evaluate: An article by Marketplace presents results from an extensive poll taken by Americans living on financial shaky ground.
  • Discover: A map and data by Visual Capitalist illustrates the varying economic hit taken by each of the states.
  • Gather: A data set looking at several variables by race that can impact financial circumstances.
  • Listen: A Marketplace audio interview (8 ½ minutes) of Atlanta District Bank President Bostic on what he describes as a “less than economy.” A shorter, edited text is also supplied.


Day Two – or Second Half of a 90 minute class

Bellringer for Day Two OR Transition into the Next Activity

Share the bellringer activity with each student and have them illustrate their comprehension of the data table by answering the three questions. (Possible answers to the questions follow. Question 1: -The younger workers appear to suffer the greatest hardship.

  1. The younger workers appear to suffer the greatest hardship.
  2. The more education you have and the greater household income you receive make it less likely that a hardship will be experienced.
  3. You are asking the students to speculate on the types of jobs that were most likely lost because of the nature of the pandemic. They can draw additional clues from the table as younger workers, people of color, and people with modest levels of education were the most vulnerable. Question 3: Service sector, retail, hospitality, and food service jobs.)

Individual Activity

The teacher should present the Nearpod to the class. All students should connect to the student view of the Nearpod through a device so they may interact, respond, and receive feedback from their participation. The preparation students did in the group activity in exploring the text set and the class notes they constructed should make for clearer connections when presenting the content.

Open the Nearpod and provide students with the join code.

  • Display Slide 2. Note to the students the essential question at the heart of this lesson.
  • Display Slide 3. Tell the students this lists the learning targets to be achieved through this lesson.
  • Display Slide 4.  Ask the students to post their personal recollections of the virus. Review some of the more interesting responses.
  • Display Slide 5. Ask the students to speculate on what behaviors or customs may change because of the virus. Review some of the more interesting responses.
  • Display Slide 6. Tell the students the map illustrates the level of economic distress present in the U.S. prior to the pandemic.
  • Display Slide 7, which provides data conveying the disparity in economic well-being from the mean between distressed and prosperous zip codes. (Change in Est. means Change in Business Formation – how many businesses have formed in these areas)
  • Display Slide 8. Asks students to interpret the map and table. Potential answer to the first question could be the Southeast U.S., answers will vary for the second question. The third answer could be the Northeast corridor, Pacific coast corridor, or urban areas. Answers to the fourth question will vary.
  • Display Slide 9. The short video includes comprehension questions. The clip defines the K-shaped recovery and describes the people and industries that will likely recover quickly and those that will likely not. Ask the students to view the video and answer the questions.
  • Display Slide 10, which visualizes the hardest hit segments of the economy and unemployment by race/ethnicity early in the pandemic.
  • Display Slides 11, which shows unemployment by education level and gender early in the pandemic.
  • Display Slide 12, which shows that the millions of Americans in jeopardy of being evicted shortly.
  • Display Slide 13, which shows that the risk of eviction falls disproportionately on families of color.
  • Display Slide 14, which indicates the risk of exposure to the virus through work falls disproportionately on workers of color.
  • Display Slide 15. Please skip slide.  Padlet is not working.  Have students follow the instructions on the Padlet and provide their interpretations of a set of graphs illustrating the varying economic impact of the virus on different demographic groups.
  • Display Slide 16 highlights the letter K and why it has become the shape most people use to describe the bifurcated recovery ahead of the United States.
  • Display Slide 17 and play the short video clip of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s assessment of the post-Covid recovery. He speaks directly about the millions of workers that he believes will be left behind.
  • Display Slide 18, this will take you to the Kahoot.


Display Slide 18 – The students will play the short Kahoot game utilizing a set of review questions as a final assessment.


In summation, the desired outcome from this lesson is that while the pandemic arrived at everyone’s door simultaneously, the students should recognize that the economic implications will be mild for some and persistent for others. The stage was set for this imparity because of the financial divergence that had been present for years. Millions of Americans have been left outside of the prosperity enjoyed by others. Disproportionately, the young, women, modestly educated, and people of color lacked the safeguards to protect them from the economic crisis. Too frequently, it was the jobs populated by these groups that were the most vulnerable. The question remains whether there will be a place for the affected in the post-Covid economy.


Activity 1

For an extension activity, pair students with someone they did not work with when they explored the multimedia text set. A new pairing will provide a fresh perspective on the issue of Covid impact. The students work together in a “Pass-Pass-Synthesize” exercise. Have the new partners position their desks so they face each other. They should have two sheets of notebook paper and a pen. Post this question on the whiteboard to remind everyone:

Essential Question #1:

  1. Why Doesn’t Covid-19 Affect Everyone Equally?
  2. Tell students for the next few minutes they will do all their communicating through writing. Have one student begin writing their response to this question, silently, for one timed minute.
  3. When the minute is up, have them pass the work to their partner. That partner will now respond to the question for a minute below the original response.
  4. Repeat this process in a second round giving both partners one minute before passing. After round two, the students should share with the class by synthesizing the dual thoughts into one coherent passage.

Related Activity

Click on the link below to find a shorter activity based on this lesson.

Factors Affecting Health and Life Expectancy