New Study: Climate Change is Having a Profound Financial Impact on Workers Earning Low and Moderate Incomes

National survey by Commonwealth demonstrates the financial burden for workers, and implications for worker productivity and employers’ bottom lines

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The impact of climate change is putting an additional financial burden on those with the fewest resources to manage financial and life stressors – creating implications for worker productivity, employers’ bottom lines, and employees’ financial security, according to a new report from the national financial nonprofit Commonwealth. Feeling the Heat: Climate Change’s Impact on Worker Financial Security reveals the profound effect of climate change on employees’ financial situations and other areas of their lives – as well as opportunities for employers, financial institutions, and other systems actors to help mitigate these effects.

The impact of climate change on workers in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly for labor-intensive jobs, service positions, and/or those who are working outdoors. In 2021, employers lost more than 2.5 billion hours of labor across agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and service sectors due to heat exposure. Additionally, a 2020 report indicated that the U.S. loses an average of $100 billion a year due to heat-induced declines in labor productivity. And a new report from the US Treasury indicates that climate change will cause significant financial strain to households in the coming years, citing reduced earnings and access to employee benefits as top concerns.

“Climate research often focuses on economic costs, but to get a full picture, we need to follow the financial impact on individual workers and the subsequent effect on the bottom lines for businesses. We knew from our extensive work with workers earning low and moderate incomes – who are disproportionately Black, Latinx and women – that climate events are also affecting personal financial security,” said Timothy Flacke, Commonwealth Co-Founder and Executive Director. “Our findings on the impact of climate change on worker financial security provide a compelling case for employers and other institutions to consider pathways to mitigate the financial impact of extreme weather events on the short- and long-term financial security of their workforce.”

Feeling the Heat examines the short- and long-term financial impact of climate change on the lives of workers living on low and moderate incomes, showing how their health, well-being, and living situations have been impacted; and workers’ perceptions of what institutions can—and should—be doing to mitigate the impact of climate change on their finances.

Fifty-four percent of workers surveyed reported that extreme weather is negatively impacting them, their family members, and those they know. Workers surveyed identified effects on their work, education, financial situation, home or living situation, financial opportunities, and health. Climate change is also affecting the financial security of workers, with 49% of respondents saying they have become less secure in their financial situation, and 28% have lost their financial stability altogether.

Unusual or extreme weather events are significantly disrupting the work of those surveyed, leading to broader implications for their financial situations and opportunities. Forty-nine percent of workers living on LMI have experienced negative changes in their work due to climate change. Meanwhile, 46% of workers surveyed are not confident that they could financially recover if unusual or extreme weather were to impact them tomorrow.

Workers who are Black, Latinx, and/or women with dependents are disproportionately impacted by climate change and face more challenges to their financial wellbeing that will make it harder for them to achieve and maintain financial stability. In fact, 58% of Black workers and 52% of Latinx workers report having their work impacted by extreme or unusual weather, as compared to 46% of white workers.

Workers are looking to employers to mitigate the financial effects of extreme or unusual weather, with more than 80% calling for an expanded employer response. Over half of workers would feel relieved if their employer helped them if something were to happen due to unusual or extreme weather.

Workers also believe financial institutions and the government have an important role to play. While only a handful of workers have received support from financial institutions after experiencing extreme or unusual weather, 23% feel they should be providing aid. Meanwhile, 73% of workers surveyed say the government has a role to play in supporting those impacted by climate change.

“These findings are consistent with our prior research that employers, financial institutions, and government play essential roles in enabling and protecting the financial security of workers earning low and moderate incomes,” Flacke continued. “The impact of extreme weather will continue to reverberate across the economy, affecting employers and communities across the board. Action by employers and other institutions is needed to ensure that climate change does not further widen racial and gender wealth gaps.”

The full report is available at:

Commonwealth will be holding a webinar in partnership with SOCAP Global to reveal the results of the report on October 11 at 3 pm ET. Flacke will be joined by Liliana Diaz, Senior Director, Climate & Biodiversity, APCO Worldwide; Julie Gehrki, Vice President, Philanthropy, Walmart and Walmart Foundation; and Emily Williams, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School to discuss the real world impact of climate change on workers, and to provide insights on what steps might be most effective in mitigating climate change’s effect on financial security.

About Commonwealth

Commonwealth is a national nonprofit building financial security and opportunity for financially vulnerable people through innovation and partnerships. Black, Latinx, and women-led households disproportionately experience financial insecurity due in large part to longstanding, systemic racism and gender discrimination. Addressing these issues is critical to Commonwealth’s work of making wealth possible for all. For nearly two decades, Commonwealth has designed effective innovations, products, and policies enabling over 2 million people to save nearly $8 billion. Commonwealth understands that broad changes require market players to act. That’s why we collaborate with consumers, the financial services industry, employers, policymakers, and mission-driven organizations. The solutions we build are grounded in real life, based on our deep understanding of people who are financially vulnerable and how businesses can best serve them. To learn more, visit us at


Kristen Elworthy