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The impact of COVID-19 on small business outcomes and expectations


  • Alexander W. Bartik

    (Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801)

  • Marianne Bertrand

    (Booth School of Business, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637)

  • Zoe Cullen

    (Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163)

  • Edward L. Glaeser

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138)

  • Michael Luca

    (Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163)

  • Christopher Stanton

    (Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163)


To explore the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on small businesses, we conducted a survey of more than 5,800 small businesses between March 28 and April 4, 2020. Several themes emerged. First, mass layoffs and closures had already occurred—just a few weeks into the crisis. Second, the risk of closure was negatively associated with the expected length of the crisis. Moreover, businesses had widely varying beliefs about the likely duration of COVID-related disruptions. Third, many small businesses are financially fragile: The median business with more than $10,000 in monthly expenses had only about 2 wk of cash on hand at the time of the survey. Fourth, the majority of businesses planned to seek funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. However, many anticipated problems with accessing the program, such as bureaucratic hassles and difficulties establishing eligibility. Using experimental variation, we also assess take-up rates and business resilience effects for loans relative to grants-based programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander W. Bartik & Marianne Bertrand & Zoe Cullen & Edward L. Glaeser & Michael Luca & Christopher Stanton, 2020. "The impact of COVID-19 on small business outcomes and expectations," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 117(30), pages 17656-17666, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:nas:journl:v:117:y:2020:p:17656-17666

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