The COVID Reset Project

Normal no longer exists. We’re living in a continual cycle of transformation, innovation, revolution, and disruption. But despite the chaos, we still need to navigate the present and plan for the future.

That’s why the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg launched its new Disruption Project that tracks ongoing changes and projects them forward across six major aspects of life and business today:

  • Communities
  • Entertainment
  • Health and Mental Health
  • Learning
  • Shopping
  • Travel
  • Work

The Data: When the COVID pandemic and lockdown hit, we knew two things: 1) everything was going to change, 2) we had a once-in-a-century chance to track what was going to change because we knew about it ahead of time. We went into the field starting at the beginning of 2021, and now have 12 quarters of nuanced, granular data across all six segments.

We are able to slice this data across age, race, income, education, gender/sexuality, politics, and urban/suburban/rural.

To Learn More: Contact Brad Berens by email as [email protected] or by phone at (310) 651-6976.


What We’re Learning is often surprising and counterintuitive


  • Nearly a quarter of Americans primarily get online through their phones with no home internet service.
  • Only a quarter of Americans know their neighbors well or very well, primarily because people want to protect their privacy.
  • 87% of Americans want to live in a safe neighborhood, but only 64% think that they do live in safe neighborhoods (a number that is declining).
  • Increasing percentages of Americans think their neighborhoods are getting worse.
  • On the other hand, 2/3 of Americans are satisfied with their neighborhoods and 91% of Americans plan to spend the same or more time improving their homes.
  • Nearly 90% plan to spend the same or a greater amount of money improving their homes — these numbers have largely not changed even after the end of lockdown when people became more able to leave their homes.


  • Even with lockdown in the rear-view mirror, the #1 reason Americans go to the movies, hike, visit zoos, or go bowling is still simply to get out of the house—not the content of the experience.
  • The #2 reason is typically for dates or to see friends, so again the social aspects are more important than the content.
  • However, for specific movies, most Americans would still prefer to see them via streaming: 52% for major Hollywood movies, 72% for art house movies, and 73% for family films.
  • Despite abundant media coverage, around 80% of Americans are not concerned about violence, sex, swearing, religious themes, or diversity in movies.
  • Two thirds of Americans are fine with ads on streaming services if that means the content is free, but only 40% are happy with streaming ads in paid services.

Health and Mental Health:

  • 50% of Americans feels themselves to be in good physical health, with higher percentages among Americans under 40.
  • For the overall population, mental health is roughly the same, but younger Americans are more pessimistic: only 32% of Gen Z feel that they are in good or excellent mental health.
  • Anxiety about the state of the world among the general population peaked at 42% in 2023, but is higher among Gen Z, ranging between 45% to 58%. Boomers are the least anxious generation (averaging 27%).
  • Over 90% of Americans are unhappy with how much exercise they get and the health of their diets. Increasing percentages of Americans find watching the news bad for their mental health,
  • On the plus side, Americans are still generally satisfied with their primary relationships (spouses and partners) after the forced proximity of lockdown: 68% feel their relationships are good or excellent, and over 70% feel that way about their relationships with their children.
  • The most important aspect of good mental health for Americans is feeling safe in their homes and communities, followed closely by a desire to stay in touch with family and friends. Pets are the #1 things that Americans feel improve their mental health, followed closely by music and art.


  • Gen Z is the least likely group to buy groceries online but the most likely to order restaurant food online.
  • Gen Z is also the least likely generation to see themselves shopping at a new place (online or in-store) in a year.
  • Nearly 70% of Boomers think, “I can get anything I need online.”
  • Cash is in a permanent decline (especially among Gen Z), in-store shopping is having a slow but steady rebound, and greater percentages of Americans are willing to buy products sight unseen — even big purchases like refrigerators or washer/dryers.


  • Unsurprisingly, Americans are more confident in their safety while traveling as COVID has receded.
  • They are also eager to travel once again, with excitement about the prospect of travel leaping over the course of our 12 quarters of data. Millennials are most excited about traveling again.
  • Despite this excitement, Americans are still wary of international travel: two thirds of Americans are comfortable traveling within their home states, while only one third plan to leave the country.
  • For those Americans planning a trip, the most popular destinations are cities, with beach vacations second. Going to the beach is most popular with Gen Z.
  • More than 80% of Americans prefer not to travel alone. Over 80% of Americans worry that the costs of travel have increased. AirBNB is most popular among Gen Z.


  • Despite numberless media stories about Americans being unwilling to work or unhappy with their jobs, majorities of Americans report being satisfied with their jobs, companies, productivity, work cultures — even how much money they make!
  • Boomers have the highest job satisfaction, but Gen Z has the lowest. Two thirds of Americans are not looking to change jobs.
  • Likewise, despite stories about the death of the office and the workplace, well over 50% of Americans work exclusively at a location to which they travel, and the number of Americans working exclusively from home is steadily declining.
  • Less than 1/3 of Americans can do all of most of their jobs exclusively online.
  • However, Americans want more flexibility today than they did before COVID: in our most recent data, only 20% of Americans who formerly worked exclusively in an office want to do so again.