The economic shutdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic witnessed a surge in drawdowns on pre-existing credit lines. This paper examines how this liquidity was used by firms. Drawdowns were associated with an immediate accumulation of liquid assets followed by a depletion of this liquidity as the U.S. economy stabilized after the spring of 2020. Drawdowns were generally not associated with greater levels of physical investment or employment either immediately after the drawdowns or several months later. Rather, the depletion of liquidity is simultaneous with an increase in the equity to assets ratio, consistent with repayments of the drawdowns. These facts are consistent with the idea that firms drew down their credit lines due to a precautionary motive to mitigate future liquidity risk until the economy started to stabilize. However, we find evidence that firms in industries that were less affected by the shutdown, such as professional services that can be performed remotely, were relatively more likely to use drawdowns to maintain investment rather than accumulate liquidity. On the intensive margin, this is especially true for firms in such industries that drew a relatively small amount of funds.
About Covid Economics
Covid Economics, Vetted and Real-Time Papers, launched at the end of March 2020, is a free online CEPR publication. It has been created to quickly disseminate fast-rising scholarly work on the Covid-19 epidemic. Alongside VoxEU, which presents short analyses on the epidemic and other economic issues, Covid Economics features more formal investigations, based on explicit theory and/or empirical evidence.
The Covid-19 breakout challenges all areas of economics including, but not only, health, industrial organization, macroeconomics, finance, history, development, inequality, political economy and public finance, and concerns theory as well as empirical evidence. We are welcoming submissions in all these areas and we aim to have a wide geographical coverage.
Covid Economics is special in three respects:
- It presents research in real time. The submissions are evaluated swiftly, within five days, and appear online a few days later.
- The papers are vetted by Editors for quality and relevance Vetting is different from refereeing in the sense that the decision is up or down, with no possibility of revising and resubmitting.
- The articles are pre-prints, meaning that authors, who retain copyright, may later submit to established reviews. The list of reviews that have announced that they will accept revised versions of papers featured in Covid Economics appears in each issue.
The vetting process aims at making Covid Economics a reliable source of on-going academic research.
The accepted papers are collated in ‘issues’. There is no preset periodicity of the issues. They are posted whenever a sufficient number of papers are accepted.
CEPR-affiliated researchers may also publish them in the CEPR Discussion Paper series.
|How to Submit to Covid Economics|
Please note that if you wish to submit or have already submitted your paper to a journal that is not on the list of journals who will accept papers previously published in Covid Economics, you must get their agreement prior to submission to Covid Economics. You also must clear the situation if you have already submitted the same paper to a journal on the list, since some journals specify that they will only accept a suitably revised version.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic massively increased uncertainty about firms’ cash flows and access to financial markets. We examine its effect on firms’ strategies for preserving cash by suspending dividends and share repurchase programs and raising new funds through bond and equity issues. Our estimates suggest that between March and December 2020 US firms saved a combined $86bn by suspending or reducing dividend payments and another $140bn from suspending buybacks. We identify a short list of firm and stock characteristics that explain most of the cross-sectional variation in firms’ payout and financing decisions. We show that the expansive monetary policies pursued by the Federal Reserve in the early phase of the pandemic crucially affected the timing and sequencing of firms’ decisions. Announcement effects on stock returns were highly unusual during the pandemic as dividend and buyback suspensions were associated with a more rapid recovery in firms’ stock prices, consistent with investors interpreting them as prudent actions that helped reduce risks.
This paper assesses the mitigating role of remittances during the adverse COVID-19 employment shock on Nigeria’s food insecurity. Based on pre-COVID-19 and post- COVID-19 surveys, we use a difference-in-difference approach while controlling for time and household fixed effects. Results indicate that remittances are mitigating the negative consequences of COVID-19 employment shocks, especially in the short run. We find that 100% of the deterioration in food insecurity, owing to the shock, is offset by the remittances received. While the adverse effects of the shock persist over time, the mitigation effects of remittances appear to be effective only at the early stages of the pandemic. Furthermore, the mitigation effect of remittances is heterogeneous regarding the origin of remittances, residence area, and poverty status. The mitigation effect of remittances is higher for remittances from abroad than for domestic ones. We also find a higher mitigating effect of remittances in rural areas and for non-poor households. Finally, our results shed light on the capital channel as a crucial mechanism explaining the mitigation effect of remittances. Notably, our findings suggest that formal financial inclusion, capital ownership like livestock or rental earnings, amplifies the attenuating effect of remittances.
This paper estimates the differential impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the housing market of different neigbourhoods within the city boundaries of a tourist-intensive capital with a high density of short-term rental properties. This is the first paper to analyse the consequences of a shifting of dwellings from the short-term into the long-term rental market. We use a panel that spans the 24 civil parishes of Lisbon between the third quarter of 2018 and the third quarter of 2020. Our identification combines the sudden and sharp decrease in tourism caused by the covid-19 pandemic with a parish-level treatment relying on the pre-pandemic intensity of short-term rentals. We use difference-in-differences specifications, and an instrumental variable based on the density of museums. We show that in the long-term rental market, prices decrease 4.1%, while quantities increase 20% in the treated civil parishes vis-à-vis comparison ones. We also find evidence of an incremental negative impact on sale prices of 4.8% in treated civil parishes, with no effect on quantities. The results are robust to the inclusion of the second largest city of the country.
In an original contribution to the COVID-19 and trade literature, we examine the trade policy passthrough to trade flows of restrictive and liberalizing measures imposed on exports and imports of food and medical products (Evenett et al. 2021) during the first nine months of 2020 for a sample of 142 countries. We find that where the imposition of trade policy measures is more consistent with theoretical/conceptual predictions, such measures are also found to be associated with trade flow changes that are less idiosyncratic. This is found to be true in general for trade policy measures imposed on exports and imports of medical products; for food products, stylized facts suggest that the trade policy activism may have been more idiosyncratic. In some cases, however, accounting for sample heterogeneities renders the results less idiosyncratic. On the whole, our results suggest that richer, more globally integrated economies with high levels of government effectiveness may have exhibited higher trade policy effectiveness during the first nine months of the pandemic.
Issue : 77
Using a hand-collected database of partial business closures for all U.S. counties from March through December 2020, we examine the impact of capacity restrictions on fatality growth due to COVID-19. For the restaurant and bar sector, we find that several combinations of partial capacity restrictions are as effective as full shutdowns. Point estimates indicate that, for the average county, limiting restaurants to 25% of capacity and bars to outdoor service reduces the fatality growth rate six weeks ahead by approximately 41%, while completely closing them reduces fatality growth by about 32%. For gyms, we find that, while full closures reduce the COVID-19 fatality growth rate, partial closures may be counterproductive relative to leaving capacity unrestricted. For salons and other personal services, we find mixed evidence that limiting them to 25% of capacity reduces fatalities. However, other constraints are either ineffective or even counterproductive.
Quick vaccine rollouts are crucial for a strong economic recovery, but vaccine hesitancy could prolong the pandemic and the need for social distancing and lockdowns. We use individual-level data from nationally representative surveys developed by YouGov and Imperial College London to empirically examine the determinants of vaccine hesitancy across 17 countries and over time. Vaccine demand depends on demographic features such as age and gender, but also on perceptions about the severity of COVID-19 and side effects of the vaccine, vaccine access, compliance with protective behaviors, overall trust in government, and how information is shared with peers. We then introduce vaccine hesitancy into an extended SIR model to assess its impact on pandemic dynamics. We find that hesitancy can increase COVID-19 infections and deaths significantly if it slows down vaccine rollouts, but has a much smaller impact if all willing adults can be immunized rapidly.
Once new Covid vaccines were approved, vaccinating the population as quickly as possible became paramount. However, in the presence of adjustment costs firms will increase production capacity only gradually. The existing contracts specify solely that a fixed quantity is to be supplied within a specified period. At fixed prices, this kind of contract provides no incentive for an accelerated build-up of vaccine production capacities within the stipulated delivery period. With adjustment costs, the price is however very sensitive to the length of the delivery period (elasticity of3). An optimal contract would specify a decreasing price schedule over time that can replicate the social optimum. We show in particular that different forms of adjustment costs, whether they are defined in relation to absolute or proportional increases in capacity, can lead to qualitatively different production profiles over time. Evidence from Covid vaccines is not compatible with the textbook model of adjustment costs, which assumes a relation to proportional increases in production. We also show that if governments had chosen the delivery time so as to minimize social losses, they would have spent much more on vaccine production.
This paper analyses the impact of the pandemic crisis in a dual labour market, using monthly data covering the universe of individuals registered as unemployed in 278 Portuguese municipalities, between March and August 2020. Our event studies document a large causal impact of the pandemic of up to 40 percentage points increases in year-on-year growth rates of the monthly stock of unemployed. We document the asymmetric impact of the crisis by employing triple difference-in-differences. Younger workers, below the age of 35, are between 20% and 25% more likely to be unemployed, vis-à-vis the older than 55. Middle educated individuals are at least 15% more likely to be unemployed when compared to the highly educated ones. There are no differences across genders for transitions into unemployment, but women have lower job placements than men. The effects are exacerbated by the duality of the labour market: an increase of one standard deviation in the municipal share of temporary contracts causes a rise of 11.6% in the number of unemployment registries and magnifies the socio-demographic asymmetries. Our results can be interpreted as a lower bound of the impact of the crisis on the labour market, given the furlough scheme implemented in Portugal.
With COVID-19 having caused significant disruption to the global education system, researchers are beginning to become concerned with the impact that this has had on student learning progress and, in particular, if learning loss has been experienced. To evaluate this, we conduct a thorough analysis of recorded learning loss evidence documented between March 2020 and March 2021. This systematic review aims to consolidate available data and document what has currently been reported in the literature. Given the novelty of the subject, eight studies were identified; seven of these found evidence of student learning loss amongst at least some of the participants, while one of the seven also found instances of learning gains in a particular subgroup. The remaining study found increased learning gains in their participants. Additionally, four of the studies observed increases in inequality where certain demographics of students experienced learning losses more significant than others. It is determined that further research is needed to increase the quantity of studies produced, their geographical focus, and the numbers of students they observe.
Issue : 76
We study the crash of bank stock prices during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find evidence consistent with a “credit line drawdown channel”. Stock prices of banks with large ex-ante exposures to undrawn credit lines as well as large ex-post gross drawdowns decline more. The effect is attenuated for banks with higher capital buffers. These banks reduce term loan lending, even after policy measures were implemented. We conclude that bank provision of credit lines appears akin to writing deep out-of-the-money put options on aggregate risk; we show how the resulting contingent leverage and stock return exposure can be incorporated tractably into bank capital stress tests.
The policy response to the COVID-19 shock included regulatory easing across jurisdictions to loosen financial conditions by facilitating the flow of credit to the economy. Using an intraday event study, this paper examines how equity returns—a key driver in financial conditions—reacted to the announcement of these measures in a sample of 18 advanced economies and 8 emerging markets. The paper finds that the announcement of looser regulation overall contributed to easing financial conditions, but effects varied across sectors and tools. Financial regulatory easing led to lower valuations for financial sector stocks, and higher valuations for non-financial sector stocks, particularly for industries that are more dependent on bank financing. Furthermore, valuations declined and financial conditions tightened following announcements related to easier bank capital regulation while equity valuation rose and financial conditions loosened after those about liquidity regulation. Effects from non-regulatory financial measures appear to be generally more muted.
Early evidence on the pandemic’s effects pointed to women’s employment falling disproportionately, leading observers to call a “she-cession.” This paper documents the extent and persistence of this phenomenon in a quarterly sample of 38 advanced and emerging market economies. We show that there is a large degree of heterogeneity across countries, with over half to two-thirds exhibiting larger declines in women’s than men’s employment rates. These gender differences in COVID-19’s effects are typically short-lived, lasting only a quarter or two on average. We also show that she-cessions are strongly related to COVID-19’s impacts on gender shares in employment within sectors.
This paper estimates the dynamic effect of Stay-At-Home (SAH) orders on the transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. Identification in this setting is challenging due to differences between real and reported case data given the imperfect testing environment, as well as the clearly non-random adoption of treatment. We extend a Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model from Epidemiology to account for endogenous testing at the county level, and exploit this additional structure to recover identification. With the inclusion of model-derived sufficient statistics and fixed effects, SAH orders have a large and sustained negative effect on the growth of cases under plausible assumptions about the progression of testing. Point estimates range from a 44% to 54% reduction in the growth rate of cases one month after a SAH order. We conclude with a discussion on extending the methodology to later phases of the pandemic.
Issue : 75
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, governments worldwide have been formulating and implementing different strategies to mitigate its social and economic impacts. We study the household consumption responses to Japan's COVID-19 unconditional cash transfer program. Owing to frequent delays in local governments' administrative procedures, the timing of the payment to households varied unexpectedly. Using this natural experiment, we analyze households' consumption responses to cash transfers using high-frequency data from personal finance management software that links detailed information on expenditure, income, and wealth. We construct three consumption measures: one captures the baseline marginal propensity to consume (MPC), and the other two are for the lower and the upper bound of MPC. Additionally, we explore heterogeneity in MPCs by household income, wealth, and population characteristics, as well as consumption categories. Our results show that households exhibit immediate and non-negligible positive responses in household expenditure. There is significant heterogeneity depending on various household characteristics, with liquidity constraint status being the most crucial factor, in line with the standard consumption theory. Additionally, this study provides policymakers with insights regarding targeted cash transfer programs, conditioning on labor income, and liquidity constraints.
This paper investigates whether international exposure played a role in how companies were impacted and which strategies they used in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our conceptual framework generates two testable hypotheses. First, international firms are more likely to be affected, both through demand and supply channels, than domestic firms due to their exposure to domestic and foreign lockdowns. Second, despite higher exposure, we expect international firms to be more resilient to the crisis than domestic firms. The resilience of international firms stems from their connectivity and productivity. Our empirical analysis corroborates both sets of hypotheses. The tests are based on a unique firm-level data set covering 4,433 enterprises in 133 countries, collected by the International Trade Centre under the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey. At the policy level, the results underscore the importance of global connectedness and international trade for promoting resilience to external shocks.
Using survey data collected in November 2020 from a representative sample of Italian working women, we analyze the effects of the second wave of COVID-19 on working arrangements, housework and childcare. By comparing our results to findings from similar data collected in April 2020 on the same sample, we explore whether and how the intra-family allocation of work and household duties changed since the first wave of the pandemic. We find that the increased gender gap in the household division of labor during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic persisted during the second wave. We show that the brunt of domestic chores and childcare remains on women even after accounting for different working arrangements. In fact, the amount of time women spend on housework, childcare, and home schooling is unaffected by their partners’ working arrangements. By contrast, men contribute fewer hours to housework and home schooling when their partners are at home. Even when working-from-home and/or non-working men devote more hours to domestic activities, the additional time spent at home does not seem to lead to a reallocation of couples’ roles in housework and childcare. Our empirical results also show that educational attainment plays a role and that women with higher levels of education express less concern about potential loss of earnings or pension coverage.
We derive an analytic expression describing how health costs and death counts of the Covid-19 pandemic change over time as vaccination proceeds. Meanwhile, the disease may continue to spread exponentially unless checked by Non Pharmacological Interventions (NPI). The key factors are that the mortality risk from a Covid-19 infection increases exponentially with age and that the sizes of age cohorts decrease linearly at the top of the population pyramid. Taking these factors into account, we derive an expression for a critical threshold, which determines the minimal speed a vaccination campaign needs to have in order to be able to keep fatalities from rising. Younger countries with fast vaccination campaigns find it substantially easier to reach this threshold than countries with aged population and slower vaccination. We find that for EU countries it will take some time to reach this threshold, given that the new, now dominant, mutations, have a significantly higher infection rate. The urgency of accelerating vaccination is increased by early evidence that the new strains also have a higher mortality risk. We also find that protecting the over 60 years old, which constitute one quarter of the EU population, would reduce the loss of live by 95 percent.
Issue : 74
I calibrate an eco-epidemiological age-structured SIR model of the B.1.1.7 covid variant on the eve of the vaccination campaign in France, under a stop-and-go lockdown policy. Three-quarters of the welfare benefit of the vaccine can be achieved with a speed of 100,000 full vaccination per day. A 1-week delay in the vaccination campaign raises the death toll by approximately 2,500, and it reduces wealth by 8 billion euros. Because of the large heterogeneity of the rates of hospitalization and mortality across age classes, it is critically important for the number of lives saved and for the economy to vaccinate older people first. Any departure from this policy has a welfare cost. Prioritizing the allocation of vaccines to the most vulnerable people save 70k seniors, but it also increases the death toll of younger people by 14k. Vaccine nationalism is modeled by assuming two identical Frances, one with a vaccine production capacity and the other without it. If the production country vaccinates its entire population before exporting to the other, the global death toll would be increased by 20\%. I also measure the welfare impact of the strong French anti-vax movement, and of the prohibition of an immunity passport.
We investigate the impact of 2020 COVID-19 rental eviction moratoria on household well-being. Analysis of new panel data indicates that eviction moratoria reduced evictions and resulted in redirection of scarce household financial resources to immediate consumption needs, notably including food and grocery spending. We also find that eviction moratoria reduced household food insecurity and mental stress, with larger effects evidenced among African American households. Findings suggest broad salutary effects of eviction moratoria during a period of widespread virus and economic distress.
Using a sample of 125 countries, we evaluate the effect of the pre-Covid-19 fiscal space on the size of the fiscal stimulus packages in response to the virus. We find that higher ratings and higher tax revenues (to public debt) predict the size of fiscal stimuli, while public debt (to GDP) does not. These findings vary with countries’ level of economic development and the composition of fiscal support.
Following the Great Lockdown in 2020, it is important to take stock of lessons learned. How effective have different containment measures been in slowing the spread of Covid-19? Have containment measures been costly in terms of economic growth, fiscal balances, and accumulated debt? This paper finds that countries with previous SARS experience acted fast and "smart", and were able to contain the virus by relying mainly on public health measures —testing, contact tracing, and public information campaigns— rather than stay-at-home requirements. Using past coronavirus outbreaks as an instrumental variable, we show that countries with past experience were able to contain the virus in a smart way, reducing transmission and deaths while also experiencing higher economic growth in 2020.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted the world economy in various ways. In particular, the drastic shift to telework has dramatically changed how people work. Whether the new style of working from home (WFH) will remain in our society highly depends on its effects on workers’ productivity. However, to the best of our knowledge, the effects of WFH on productivity are still unclear. By leveraging unique surveys conducted at four manufacturing firms in Japan, we identify the possible factors of productivity changes due to WFH. Our main findings are as follows. First, after ruling out the time-invariant component of individual productivity and separate trends specific to employee attributes, we find that workers who worked from home experienced productivity declines more than those who did not. Second, our analysis shows that poor WFH setups and communication difficulties are the major reasons for productivity losses. Third, we find that the mental health of workers who work from home is significantly better than that of workers who are unable to work from home. Our result suggests that if appropriate investments in upgrading WFH setups and facilitating communication can be made, WFH may improve productivity by improving employees’ health and well-being.
Issue : 73
This paper analyses the economic effects of the COVID sanitary situation and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on 29 advanced OECD countries. We use mobility data as a proxy for economic activity and compare the first wave of COVID to the second one. Overall, our results show that NPIs were the main explanatory factor behind the mobility reduction in advanced OECD countries during the first wave. The sanitary situation played a more important role during the second wave suggesting (i) a greater awareness of the severity of the health situation and/or (ii) an increase in individual responsibility, which was given more room as restrictions were less severe during the second wave. Focusing on 6 European countries in particular, we observe that those most affected during the first wave display higher elasticities to mobility restrictions, except for Italy where restrictions and the sanitary situation had similar impacts on mobility. Looking at the relative effects of different types of NPIs we see that more stringent measures had more impact on mobility. Nevertheless, we remain cautious regarding these last estimates as the rapid sequencing of NPIs likely implies issues of statistical identification.
A much debated issue in the COVID-19 state aid to firms is the extent to which these measures keep non-viable firms afloat. What are the characteristics of firms that receive aid and are they viable in the long term? Based on a survey of 1151 firms in the Netherlands, we find that on average, government support goes to better-managed firms and to those with low turnover expectations and high turnover uncertainty. This suggests that COVID-19 state aid tends to go to firms that are most in need of it now and are more likely to be viable in the long term.
The cross-country relationship between Covid-19 crude mortality rates and previously measured income inequality and poverty in the pandemic’s first wave is studied, controlling for other underlying factors, in a sample of 141 countries. An older population, fewer hospital beds, lack of universal BCG (tuberculosis) vaccination, and greater urbanization are associated with higher mortality. The death rate has a consistent strong positive relationship with the Gini coefficient for income. Poverty as measured by the $1.90 per day standard has a small negative association with death rates. The elasticity of Covid-19 deaths with respect to the Gini coefficient, evaluated at sample means, is 0.9. Assuming the observed empirical relationships unchanged, if the Gini coefficient in all countries where it is above the OECD median was instead at that median, 67,900 fewer deaths would have been expected after 150 days of the pandemic - a reduction of 11%. Shrinking higher Gini’s down to the G7 median reduces predicted deaths by 89,900, or 14%.
This paper studies how the COVID-19 pandemic affected firms' investment decisions. Combining a survey of Swiss firms with a quasi-experimental research design finds that the pandemic caused firms to reduce their 2020 investment plans by over one-eighth. Firms in regions more exposed to the virus and industries more sensitive to government-imposed restrictions cut their investments more. Both financial constraints and increased uncertainty contributed to downward revisions, which concern investments to extend the production capacity above all. By contrast, the pandemic stimulated investments driven by technological factors or investments of innovative firms.
This paper finds empirical evidence that faster and smarter containment measures were associated with lower fiscal responses to the COVID-19 shock. We also find that initial conditions, such as fiscal space, income, health preparedness and budget transparency were important in shaping the amount and design of the COVID-19 fiscal response.
Stay-at-home policies due to the Covid-19 pandemic have drastically increased housework and childcare. During the lockdown, couples were harshly challenged by this novel situation which could notably redistribute roles and/or could also lead to intrahousehold conflicts. In this paper, we use individual data collected from an online survey on French partnered women during the confinement of the 2020 Spring to investigate the lockdown’s effects on the household chores allocation and tensions in the couple. We show that the lockdown did not offer an opportunity to strongly renegotiate the housework and childcare division between the partners, as women still did the lion’s share during this period. Men changed their participation in household chores that are quasi-leisure, such as shopping and playing with children. We also document that an unbalanced division of the increased household chores during the lockdown, in particular on cleaning and childcare, is directly linked to an increase of the intrahousehold conflicts. To conclude, this period did not structurally affect gender roles and stereotypes at home, despite minor intrahousehold changes.
Issue : 72
We evaluate the implications of relaxing the Supplementary Leverage Ratio during the COVID-19 market disruption for bank balance sheet composition and credit provision. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to causally identify the effect of the SLR regulation change on bank level outcomes. We find that the relaxation may have eased Treasury market liquidity by allowing banks to hold modestly greater inventories of Treasuries, and further allowed for a significant expansion of traditional bank credit. Our findings suggest that this risk-invariant leverage ratio was binding for banks during COVID-19, weakly affected bank liquidity provision in Treasury markets, and strongly affected banks' portfolio composition across asset classes, amounting to a shift of banks' loan supply schedules. Thus, we highlight that countercyclical relaxation of uniform leverage constraints can increase bank credit provision during economic downturns. Given the binding nature of the SLR, the relaxation of this constraint may be more effective than other countercyclical measures in allowing banks to extend credit.
Using aggregate-level data on Japanese multinational corporations (MNCs) in major host countries and regions, this paper investigates the impact of COVID-19 on global production and supply chains with a focus on East Asia. I use the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths as measures of the impact of the pandemic. I find that the pandemic had substantial impacts on the performance (sales, employment, and investment) of Japanese MNCs and global supply chains (exports to Japan and exports to third countries) in Q1–Q3 2020. China recovered quickly in Q2 and grew in Q3, whilst the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the rest of the world had still not fully recovered in Q3 2020. Importantly, lockdown and containment policies in host countries had large negative impacts on the sales and employment of Japanese MNCs. In contrast, I did not find positive effects of economic support policies on firm performance. Interestingly, whilst the firm expectations and business plans of Japanese MNCs were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, their business confidence increased with strong overall government policy responses in host countries in Q1 2020.
In this paper, we shed light on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market, and how they have evolved over most of the year 2020. Relying primarily on microdata from the CPS and state-level data on virus caseloads, mortality, and policy restrictions, we consider a range of employment outcomes—including permanent layoffs, which generate large and lasting costs—and how these outcomes vary across demographic groups, occupations, and industries over time. We also examine how these employment patterns vary across different states, according to the timing and severity of virus caseloads, deaths, and closure measures. We find that the labor market recovery of the summer and early fall stagnated in late fall and early winter. As noted by others, we find low-wage and minority workers are hardest hit initially, but that recoveries have varied, and not always consistently, between Blacks and Hispanics. Statewide business closures and other restrictions on economic activity reduce employment rates concurrently, but do not seem to have lingering effects once relaxed. In contrast, virus deaths—but not caseloads—not only depress current employment, but produce accumulating harm. We conclude with policy options for states to repair their labor markets.
The Covid-19 Pandemic led to changes in expenditure patterns that can introduce significant bias in the measurement of Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation. Using publicly-available data on card transactions, I update the official CPI weights and re-calculate inflation with Covid consumption baskets. I find that the US CPI underestimated the Covid inflation rate, as consumers spent relatively more on food with positive inflation, and less on transportation and categories experiencing deflation. The bias peaked in May, when US Covid annual inflation was 0.95% compared to just 0.13% in the CPI and low-income households were experiencing nearly twice as much inflation as those at the top of the income distribution. I find similar evidence of higher Covid inflation in 12 of 19 additional countries.
The COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain the virus have caused severe disruptions to labor supply and demand worldwide. Understanding who is bearing the burden of the crisis and what drives it is crucial for designing policies going forward. Using the U.S. monthly Current Population Survey data, this paper analyzes differences in employment responses between men and women. The main finding is that less educated women with young children were the most adversely affected during the first nine months of the crisis.The loss of employment of women with young children due to the burden of additional childcare is estimated to account for 45 percent of the increase in the employment gender gap, and to reduce total output by 0.36 percent between April and November 2020.
Issue : 71
Based on a standard epidemiological model, we derive and apply empirical tests of the hypothesis that contacts, as proxied by mobility data, have an effect on the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, as summarized by the reproduction rates, and on economic activity, as captured by subsequent initial claims to unemployment benefits. We show that changes in mobility through the first quarters of 2020, be it spontaneous or mandated, had significant effects on both the spread of the coronavirus and the economy. Strikingly, we find that spontaneous social distancing was no less costly than mandated social distancing. Our results suggest that the rebound in economic activity when stay-at-home orders were lifted was primarily driven by the improvement in epidemiological parameters. In other words, without the reduction in the reproduction rate of the coronavirus, we could have expected a doubling down on spontaneous social distancing.
This paper examines employment patterns by wage group over the course of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States using microdata from two well-known data sources from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the Current Employment Statistics and the Current Population Survey. We find that both establishments paying the lowest average wages and the lowest wage workers had the steepest decline in employment and are still the furthest from recovery as of the most recent data for workers in December 2020 and establishments in January 2021. We disentangle the extent to which the effect observed for low wage workers is due to these workers being concentrated within a few low wage sectors of the economy versus the pandemic affecting low wage workers in a number of sectors across the economy. Our results indicate that the experience of low wage workers is not entirely due to these workers being concentrated in low wage sectors – for many sectors, the lowest wage quintile in that sector also has had the worst employment outcomes. For each month from March 2020 to January 2021, at least 20% of the decline in employment among the lowest wage establishments was due to within-industry changes. Another important finding is that even for those who remain employed during the pandemic, the probability of becoming part-time for economic reasons increased, especially for low-wage workers.
Is there a connection between the 2007-2009 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic? To answer this question we examine the relation between both macroeconomic and financial losses derived from the financial crisis and the health outcomes associated with the first wave of the pandemic. At the European level, countries more affected by the financial crisis had more deaths relative to coronavirus cases. We find an analogous significant relation across Spanish provinces and a transmission mechanism running from finance to health outcomes through cross-sectional differences in health facilities.
We estimate that the short to medium-term fiscal impact of previous pandemics has been significant in 170 countries (including low-income countries) during the 2000-2018 period. The impact has varied, with pandemics affecting government expenditures more than revenues in advanced economies, while the converse applies to developing countries. Using a subset of 45 developing countries for which tax reform data are available, we find that past pandemics have propelled countries to implement tax reforms, particularly in corporate income taxes, excises and property taxation. Pandemics do not drive revenue administration reforms.
The current Covid-19 pandemic is a stochastic shock that impacts all Australian women irrespective of individual difference. While not every person will contract coronavirus, every Australian woman has experienced a stress reaction impacting their psychological, regulatory, or behavioural responses. Our study employs a repeated measures survey from (n=420) Australian women in June (n=207) and September 2020. We analyse the relationship between women’s demographics, personality, mental and physical health, their Covid-19 knowledge and stated risk preferences, to identify factors impacting coping behaviors employed using the BriefCope scale. We find that both age and personality are key factors impacting both choice and type of coping strategy employed. With younger Australian women (compared to older) more likely to engage a coping strategy. Interestingly, women’s income and self-rated general health showed no statistically significant relationship with any of the 14 strategies in the BriefCope scale. Further our repeated measures analysis shows that women aged 40 years and below report greater increases in the use of avoidant (denial, substance use, venting and self-blame) and approach coping (emotional and instrumental support) compared to older women in our cohort. We also find that across time, younger Australian women exhibit higher propensities for risk compared with older Australian women. Our findings of key age & time effects for Australian women’s willingness or choice to enact a coping strategy warrants further research into the underlying drivers of such pronounced generational difference.
This paper provides an ex-post analysis of football matches’ contribution to the spread of COVID-19 during Germany’s second infection wave in summer and autumn 2020. We find slightly positive effects from occurring professional football matches on newly registered cases of the virus in the respective counties. An upper boundary gives us that an additional match in a county on average raises the number of daily registered cases by up to between 0.52 and 0.91 cases per 100,000 inhabitants after three weeks. Hence, this on average implies an increase in the seven-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants by up to between 3.6 and 6.4. We do not find qualitatively different results in a subsample of German top league matches which were associated to have the strictest hygiene regulations. Most importantly, the found effect is mediated by the incidence level at the day of the match with very few infections for matches at a seven-day incidence below 25. As an underlying mechanism, we identify increases in the local mobility. Further, infections are not explicitly driven by higher occupancy levels. We finally show that the ban of away fans successfully restricts the spread of COVID-19 beyond county borders and also find indication for a reduced effect from football matches in the presence of the ’lockdown light’ which Germany launched in early November.
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COVID-19 became a global health emergency when it threatened the catastrophic collapse of health systems as demand for health goods and services and their relative prices surged. Governments responded with lockdowns and increases in transfers. Empirical evidence shows that lockdowns and healthcare saturation contribute to explain the cross-country variation in GDP drops even after controlling for COVID-19 cases and mortality. We explain this output-pandemia tradeoff as resulting from a shock to subsistence health demand that is larger at higher capital utilization in a model with entrepreneurs and workers. The health system moves closer to saturation as the gap between supply and subsistence narrows, which worsens consumption and income inequality. An externality distorts utilization because firms do not internalize that lower utilization relaxes healthcare saturation. The optimal policy response includes lockdowns and transfers to workers. Quantitatively, strict lockdowns and large transfer hikes can be optimal and yield sizable welfare gains because they prevent a sharp rise in inequality. Welfare and output costs vary in response to small parameter changes or deviations from optimal policies. Weak lockdowns coupled with weak transfers programs are the worst alternative and yet are in line with what several emerging and least developed countries have implemented.
We estimate the factors predicting firm failures in the COVID crisis based on French data in 2020. Although the number of firms filing for bankruptcy was much below its normal level (- 36% compared to 2019) the same factors that predicted firm failures (primarily productivity and debt) in 2019 are at work in a similar way as in 2020. Hence, the selection process, although much reduced, has not been distorted in 2020. At this stage, partial hibernation rather than zombification characterises the selection into firm survival or failure. We also find that the sectoral heterogeneity of the turnover COVID shock (proxied by the change in credit card transactions) has been largely (but not fully) absorbed by public policy support because it predicts little of the probability of bankruptcy at the firm level. Finally, we sketch some potential scenarios for 2021-2022 for different sectors based on our empirical estimates of predictors of firm failures.
This paper empirically examines how the opening of K-12 schools and colleges is associated with the spread of COVID-19 using county-level panel data in the United States. Using data on foot traffic and K-12 school opening plans, we analyze how an increase in visits to schools and opening schools with different teaching methods (in-person, hybrid, and remote) is related to the 2-weeks forward growth rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Our debiased panel data regression analysis with a set of county dummies, interactions of state and week dummies, and other controls shows that an increase in visits to both K-12 schools and colleges is associated with a subsequent increase in case growth rates. The estimates indicate that fully opening K-12 schools with in-person learning is associated with a 5 (SE = 2) percentage points increase in the growth rate of cases. We also find that the positive association of K-12 school visits or in-person school openings with case growth is stronger for counties that do not require staff to wear masks at schools. These results have a causal interpretation in a structural model with unobserved county and time confounders. Sensitivity analysis shows that the baseline results are robust to timing assumptions and alternative specifications.
In this paper, I study a simple SIR-Macro model to examine Japan's second soft lockdown, starting in January 2021. The model's parameters are calibrated to capture both infection and economic fluctuations in 2020. I find that the government should extend this lockdown long enough to avoid another future lockdown, given the country's medical capacity. In addition, I consider the ICU targeting policy that keeps the number of severe patients at a constant level, mimicking the monetary policy's inflation targeting. These macro-level containment policies can help develop age-dependent strategies using the timing differences of vaccinations between the young and the old.
How important are risk-avoidance behaviors for preventing the spread of COVID-19? Answering this question is difficult because risk-avoidance behaviors may be correlated with non-behavioral risks (such as occupational risk) and because COVID-19 prevalence is poorly measured due to limited testing. We study the prevalence of COVID-19 infections among state governors and members of the U.S. Congress. These politicians face similar occupational risks and are frequently tested. Yet we find large differences in COVID-19 prevalence along party lines: Republican politicians are three times as likely as Democratic ones to have ever reported a COVID case. The association between COVID-19 and party affiliation is not due to demographic differences, differences in state riskiness, or differential campaign strategies. Given well-documented differences in risk attitudes and preventive behavior along political lines, the differential COVID-19 rate we document is consistent with the view that behavioral risk is a key determinant of COVID-19 infections.
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We show that the COVID-19 pandemic brought house price and rent declines in city centers, and price and rent increases away from the center, thereby flattening the bid-rent curve in most U.S. metropolitan areas. Across MSAs, the flattening of the bid-rent curve is larger when working from home is more prevalent, housing markets are more regulated, and supply is less elastic. Housing markets predict that urban rent growth will exceed suburban rent growth for the foreseeable future.
The business restrictions introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic greatly affected the labour market. However, quantifying their costs is not trivial as local policies affect neighbouring areas through spillovers. Exploiting the U.S. local variation in restrictions and commuting, we estimate the causal direct and spillover impacts of lockdowns. Spillovers alone account for 10-15% of U.S. job losses. We corroborate these results with causal evidence for a consumption-based mechanism: shops whose consumers reside in neighbouring areas under lockdown experience larger employment losses, even if no local restriction is in place. Accounting for spillovers implies larger lockdowns’ total effects, but smaller direct ones.
This paper investigates the likelihood of corporate insolvency and the potential implications of debt overhang of non-financial corporations induced by economic shock associated with the outbreak of COVID-19. Based on simple accounting models, it evaluates the extent to which firms deplete their equity buffers and increase their leverage ratios in the course of the COVID-19 crisis. Next, relying on regression analysis and looking at the historical relationship between firms’ leverage and investment, it examines the potential impact of higher debt levels on investment during the recovery. Against this background, the discussion outlines a number of policy options to flatten the curve of crisis-related insolvencies, which could potentially affect otherwise viable firms, and to lessen the risk of debt-overhang, which could slow down the speed of recovery.
For any infectious disease, including the Covid-19 pandemic, timely, accurate epidemic figures are necessary for informed policy. In the Covid-19 pandemic, mismeasurement can lead to tremendous waste, in health or economic output. "Random" testing is commonly used to estimate virus prevalence, reporting daily positivity rates. However, since testing is necessarily voluntary, all "random" tests done in the field suffer from selection bias. This bias, unlike standard polling biases, goes beyond demographical representativeness and cannot be corrected by oversampling (i.e. selecting people without symptoms to test). Using controlled, incentivized experiments on a sample of all ages, we show that people who feel symptoms are up to 42 times more likely to seek testing. The testing propensity bias leads to sizeable prevalence bias: even under costless testing, test positivity can inflate true prevalence fivefold. The inflation factor varies greatly across time and age groups, making intertemporal and between nation comparisons misleading. We validate our results using the largest population surveillance studies of Covid-19 in England, and indeed find that the bias varies intertemporally from 4 to 23 times. We present calculations to debias positivity, but importantly, suggest a parsimonious approach to sampling the population that bypasses the bias altogether. Estimates are both real-time and consistently close to true values. Our results are relevant to any epidemic, besides Covid-19, where carriers have informative beliefs about their own status.
The surge of the COVID-19 pandemic urged regulators all over the world to deploy measures aimed at rarefying social contacts to contain the spread of the pandemic, the so called social distancing policies. Social distancing depresses employment and hinders economic activity. As shocks unevenly spill through the network of sectors, social distancing has unclear aggregate implications. We adopt a multi-sector model to explore the effect of social distancing in an economy characterized by sectoral spillovers. We focus on the Australian economy, due to the availability of granular data-sets on sectoral fluctuations and COVID-19 employment variations. We analyse two scenarios. First, we attribute the employment shock to a structural change in factor utilization and study the effect on GDP for varying temporal windows. We obtain a drop ranging between 6.6% (20-week lockdown) and 28% (1-year lockdown). Second, we evaluate the short-run effect of the observed employment shocks on sectoral value added growth. Several up- stream sectors are subject to larger losses in value added than predicated by the observed change in employment. In fact, for several of these sectors, employment change in the relevant period is actually positive. These result can be attributed to a compounded network effect.
The Netherlands has recently closed down primary and secondary education in response to the covid-19 pandemic. Using a SIR (Susceptibles-Infected-Recovered) model for the Netherlands, this closure is shown to be counter-productive (as it increases future vulnerability to infection) and hard to reverse (since the increased vulnerability demands continuation). Though the rise of B117 (“the British version”) has been used to argue for school-closure, B117 increases the negative effects of school-closure. School-closure has been based on a misunderstanding of the dynamics in a multi-group SIR model. Furthermore, immunity by prior infection is shown to provide a larger contribution to ending the pandemic than vaccination. Finally, a cost-benefit analysis shows school-closure to be extremely costly. Behavioural economics explains why decision making and the public debate are so distorted, to the detriment of youngsters.
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We argue that the COVID-19 foreclosure moratorium plays a crucial role in supporting refinancing activities, in addition to preventing foreclosures. We estimate that the moratorium prevented approximately 900,000 foreclosures filings and house price drops up to 9% from April to October 2020. Using loan-level data on GSE-backed mortgages, we find that the moratorium decreases the refinancing cost of households and relaxes their refinancing eligibility constraints. Our results imply that granting forbearance to households facing foreclosures has positive externalities on a broader range of households who intend to refinance. Mortgage forbearance can thus amplify the stimulative effect of monetary policy.
Epidemics may have social scarring effects, increasing the likelihood of social unrest. They may also have mitigating effect, suppressing unrest by dissuading social activities. Using a new monthly panel on social unrest in 130 countries, we find a positive cross-sectional relationship between social unrest and epidemics. But the relationship reverses in the short run, implying that the mitigating effect dominates in the short run. Recent trends in social unrest immediately before and after the COVID-19 outbreak are consistent with this historic evidence. It is reasonable to expect that, as the pandemic fades, unrest may reemerge in locations where it previously existed.
School closures, forcibly brought about by the COVID-19 crisis in many countries, have impacted children’s lives and their learning processes. There will likely be substantial and persistent disparities between families in terms of educational outcomes. Distance learning solutions adopted by schools have been heterogeneous across countries, within countries and between school levels. As a consequence, most of the burden of children’s learning has fallen on their parents, with likely uneven results depending on the socio-economic characteristics of the family. Using a real time survey data, collected in April and early May 2020 in France and Italy, we estimate child fixed effects models to analyze how the lockdown has affected parents’ evaluations of their children’s emotional wellbeing and of their home learning process. The analysis also focuses on the role played by online classes, or other interactive methods, on children’s home learning and emotional status. We find that the Spring 2020 lockdown had a stronger negative effect on boys, on children attending kindergarten (in Italy) or secondary school (in France), and on children whose parents have a lower education level. We also find that the increase in the time spent in front of screen is correlated to worse learning progresses and emotional status, while the opposite is true for the time spent reading. The use of interactive distance learning methodologies, which has been much more common in Italy than in France, appears to significantly attenuate the parents’ negative perception of the impact of lockdown on the learning progress of their children.
This note describes an auction for selling vaccines in a pandemic. The environment borrows from the problem of allocating positions for sponsored links on pages with online search results but recognizes the externalities that one man’s vaccination imposes on another. The auction is the pivot Vickrey-Clark-Groves mechanism and, so, inherits its properties: efficiency and strategy-proofness. The auction lets each bidder bid not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of others. The auction requires neither the bidders nor the auctioneer to forecast the efficacy of the vaccine or the evolution of the pandemic.
The diffusion of COVID-19 and related containment measures practically halted tourism flows, which in many countries generate more than 10% of GDP. By exploiting Airbnb data covering the main touristic destinations in Europe, we investigate how the exposure to COVID-19 and the stringency of containment measures affected the market of short-term rentals over the spring and summer months of 2020. We find that the epidemic reduced dramatically both the supply of apartments available for rents and the consumers’ demand, up to 9 months ahead. Prices fell as well, even at long time horizons, but with a delay. All in all, our results point to a persistent impact of COVID-19 and related containment measures on consumers’ behaviour, with demand shortages potentially overcoming supply shortfalls.
The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased households' needs for cash and has forced households to use other payment methods. We argue that these patterns are consistent with a variety of cash management models and, in particular, that these patterns indicate an increase in the transaction cost of adjusting a household's stock of cash. The model allows us to separate the contributions to the observed decline in cash transactions from reduced total spending and from cash management decisions. We use detailed data on ATM cash disbursements in Argentina and the US to estimate how much the pandemic has changed the transaction cost of using cash. This estimation shows that if the intensity of the virus doubles in a county, cash transaction cost increases by approximately 2%. The results from Argentina and the US are quantitatively consistent and imply that, given that cash and other payment methods are imperfectly substitutable, the recent increase in contactless payments due to health risks is not without cost to households.
This study examines how listed firms have managed their cash holdings since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, using quarterly data on publicly-traded firms in Japan. After providing an overview of developments in cash holdings since the start of the crisis, we focus on the precautionary motive for corporate cash holdings and examine the role of firms’ cash flow and volatility therein in firms’ cash holdings to find the following: (1) corporate cash holdings have increased rather than decreased since the start of the crisis; (2) an increase in firms’ cash flow has a positive impact on their cash holdings during normal times, and the sensitivity of cash holdings to cash flows was more pronounced during the first three months of the crisis; (3) firms facing higher sales volatility held more cash in the second three-month period following the start of the crisis; and (4) the cash flow sensitivity of financially constrained firms’ cash holdings during the crisis period increased more than that of unconstrained firms. Overall, the COVID-19 crisis has had a substantial impact on corporate cash management strategies and the results are consistent with the precautionary motive theory for cash holdings.
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Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) have been for most countries the key policy instrument utilized to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we conduct an empirical analysis of the impact of these policies on the virus’ transmission and death toll, for a panel of 152 countries, from the start of the pandemic through December 31, 2020. We find that lockdowns tend to significantly reduce the spread of the virus and the number of related deaths. We also show that this benign impact declines over time: after four months of strict lockdown, NPIs have a significantly weaker contribution in terms of their effect in reducing COVID-19 related fatalities. Part of the fading effect of quarantines could be attributed to an increasing non-compliance with mobility restrictions, as reflected in our estimates of a declining effect of lockdowns on measures of actual mobility. However, we additionally find that a reduction in de facto mobility also exhibits a diminishing effect on health outcomes, which suggests that lockdown fatigues may have introduced broader hurdles to containment policies.
We show the recovery in consumer spending in the United Kingdom through the second half of 2020 is unevenly distributed across regions. We utilise Fable Data: a real-time source of consumption data that is a highly correlated, leading indicator of Bank of England and Office for National Statistics data. The UK's recovery is heavily weighted towards the “home counties” around outer London and the South. We observe a stark contrast between strong online spending growth while offline spending contracts. The strongest recovery in spending is seen in online spending in the “commuter belt” areas in outer London and the surrounding localities and also in areas of high second home ownership, where working from home (including working from second homes) has significantly displaced the location of spending. Year-on-year spending growth in November 2020 in localities facing the UK's new tighter “Tier 3” restrictions (mostly the midlands and northern areas) was 38.4% lower compared with areas facing the less restrictive “Tier 2” (mostly London and the South). These patterns had been further exacerbated during November 2020 when a second national lockdown was imposed. To prevent such COVID-19-driven regional inequalities from becoming persistent we propose governments introduce temporary, regionally-targeted interventions in 2021. The availability of real-time, regional data enables policymakers to efficiently decide when, where and how to implement such regional interventions and to be able to rapidly evaluate their effectiveness to consider whether to expand, modify or remove them.
We propose a model of how multiple societies respond to a common crisis. A government faces a “damned-either-way” policy-making dilemma: aggressive intervention contains the crisis, but the resulting good outcome makes people skeptical of the costly response; light intervention worsens the crisis and causes the government to be faulted for not doing enough. This dilemma can be mitigated for the society that encounters the crisis first if another society faces it afterward. Our model predicts that the later society does not necessarily perform better despite having more information, while the earlier society might benefit from a dynamic counterfactual effect.
This study analyzes the benefits of statewide policy intervention in reducing COVID-19 deaths and the costs of that intervention in lost jobs and lower real gross state product (RGSP). Policy interventions are measured by the Oxford stringency index which places a daily numerical value on the level of a state’s policy intervention.
Empirical evidence is provided that shows policy interventions have reduced COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by 358,000 lives in 2020. On the cost side, it was found that policy intervention resulted in a loss of 7.3 million jobs and a decline of $410 billion in RGSP.
The study concludes by integrating the findings related to the benefits and costs of policy interventions to the economic cost per life saved for every state, as well as an estimate of the national average cost per life of $1.1 million. That figure is compared to an age-adjusted value of statistical life (VSL) calculated in the study of $4.2 million for COVID-19 fatalities.
This paper estimates the benefits and costs of state suppression policies to “bend the curve” during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. We employ a value-of-production approach that values benefits and costs in terms of additions or subtractions to total production. Relative to a baseline in which only the infected and at-risk populations mitigate the spread of coronavirus, we estimate that total benefits of suppression policies are between $605.9 billion and $841.1 billion from early March 2020 to August 1, 2020. Relative to private mitigation, the costs of suppression policies are estimated to be between $214.2 billion and $331.5 billion. The cost estimate is based on the duration of nonessential business closures and stay-at-home orders, which were enforced between 42 and 65 days. Our results indicate that the net benefits of suppression policies to slow the spread of COVID-19 are positive and may be substantial.
We examine how the lives of adolescents in Low- and Middle- Income countries have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn using data from a large-scale phone survey conducted in four countries as a part of Young Lives, a 20-year longitudinal study. The phone survey asked detailed information about the COVID-19 pandemic experiences as well as collecting welfare indicators that are comparable across rounds. This allows a unique opportunity to compare a cohort of young people born around the turn of the Millennium (Younger Cohort) with an Older Cohort born in 1994, measured at the same age but seven years previously; both cohorts have been surveyed by the project since 2002. We find that relative gains in multidimensional well-being of the Younger Cohort found in survey rounds up to 2016 had largely disappeared in 2020. The significant (absolute and relative) downturn in self-reported wellbeing and economic circumstances is apparent in India, Ethiopia, and Peru, though not in Vietnam, the country which has had the most success at controlling the virus. However, educational enrolment has been affected in all countries. We suggest that the consequences of education dropout and links to potential mental health issues may mean the effects are long lasting in the absence of interventions to support young people’s wellbeing and livelihoods
Despite the fact that the current covid-19 pandemic was neither the first nor the last disease to threaten a pandemic, only recently have studies incorporated epidemiology into macroeconomic theory. In our paper, we use a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model with a financial sector to study the economic impacts of epidemics and the potential for unconventional monetary policy to remedy those effects. By coupling a macroeconomic model to a traditional epidemiological model, we are able to evaluate the pathways by which an epidemic affects a national economy. We find that no unconventional monetary policy can completely remove the negative effects of an epidemic crisis, save perhaps an exogenous increase in the shares of claims coming from the Central Bank (“epi loans”). To the best of our knowledge, our paper is the first to incorporate disease dynamics into a DSGE-SIR model with a financial.
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New binary classification tests are often evaluated relative to a pre-established test. For example, rapid Antigen tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 are assessed relative to more established PCR tests. In this paper, I argue that the new test can be described as producing ambiguous information when the pre-established is imperfect. This allows for a phenomenon called dilation—an extreme form of non-informativeness. As an example, I present hypothetical test data satisfying the WHO's minimum quality requirement for rapid Antigen tests which leads to dilation. The ambiguity in the information arises from a missing data problem due to imperfection of the established test: the joint distribution of true infection and test results is not observed. Using results from Copula theory, I construct the (usually non-singleton) set of all these possible joint distributions, which allows me to assess the new test's informativeness. This analysis leads to a simple sufficient condition to make sure that a new test is not a dilation. I illustrate my approach with applications to data from three COVID-19 related tests. Two rapid Antigen tests satisfy my sufficient condition easily and are therefore informative. However, less accurate procedures, like chest CT scans, may exhibit dilation.
Using high-frequency proxies for economic activity over a large sample of countries, we show that the economic crisis during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic was only partly due to government lockdowns. Economic activity also contracted severely because of voluntary social distancing in response to higher infections. Furthermore, we show that lockdowns substantially reduced COVID-19 cases, especially if they were introduced early in a country's epidemic. This implies that, despite involving short-term economic costs, lockdowns may pave the way to a faster recovery by containing the spread of the virus and reducing voluntary social distancing. Finally, we document that lockdowns entail decreasing marginal economic costs but increasing marginal benefits in reducing infections. This suggests that tight short-lived lockdowns are preferable to mild prolonged measures.
The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered unprecedented levels of disruption and stress for workers. Still, little is relatively known about the state of mind of the workforce, even if its well-being is increasingly recognized as a driver of productivity. This paper encompasses multiple forms of stress - health, economic, social, and psychological – faced by the workforce, and demonstrates that not only have workers been facing large levels of stress during the Covid-19 pandemic beyond health issues, but that stress is not uniformly distributed among workers. While it is known that Covid-19 has been building a divide between remote and on-site workers, we uncover a much larger divide than the ones induced by work location alone, with the divide being due to different perceptions of mix and level of worries. Human resources practices may have to be much more personalized and include all forms of stress to diagnose the level of workers’ state of fragility if they wish to create a much more resilient and productive workforce.
Evidence is provided as to how government containment and closure policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in affected firm-level employment and hours worked and the differential employment impacts of such policies between men and women. The analysis uses data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Analysis Unit survey of business enterprises owners and top managers located in 20 emerging nations about the impact that COVID-19 had on their business operations. Several principal conclusions are drawn from the analysis. First, containment and closure policies, viewed as a whole, impacted negatively permanent jobs and total hours worked at the firm level, but not temporary employment. Second, school and workplace closing policies increased the likelihood that firms reduced permanent employment, but the impact did not fall disproportionately on women. Third, public transport closings negatively impacted the employment prospects of all employment categories except temporary employment. Further, women were disproportionately affected by such policies. Fourth, policies directed at closure of public events had large negative effects across all employment categories, including temporary employment. Fifth, restrictions on internal movement negatively affected both permanent and temporary employment, but there is only weak evidence that such policies affect women disproportionally. Finally, at least for the set of emerging economies studied in this analysis, there is no evidence that international travel controls affected the likelihood that firms would reduce their total work hours, their levels of permanent and temporary employment, nor their reliance on women in their workforce.
We present a new policy stringency index for Europe, based on a compilation of country response measures to Covid-19 provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This new index is available for dozens of different types of mandatory social distancing measures most frequently applied (e.g. school closures, face covering, closure of restaurants and other sectors of the economy, stay at home orders, etc.) and takes into account that many measures are graduated. An aggregate index is also provided.
First tests indicate that (changes in) this policy index are highly correlated with contemporaneous and future economic activity. An increase in the overall restrictiveness indicator of one standard deviation is associated with a fall in GDP of about 3 percentage points. Increases in this indicator are usually followed by a fall in infections.
The aggregate 'CEPS-PERISCOPE index' is highly correlated (correlation coefficient 80-90 % in levels and changes) with the Oxford government response tracker in both level and monthly changes. However, the correlation is much smaller for individual elements, such as school closures, prohibitions on mass gatherings, etc. The underlying data is available for researchers to use for further empirical work.
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We offer a novel theoretical framework to study optimal vaccination policies. The key features of the model are that agents: 1) differ both in their potential exposure (x) to others and vulnerability (y) to severe illness, 2) exert negative externalities through interaction, and 3) can take voluntary preventative measures, for instance self-isolation. Our main result is a complete characterization of the second-best policy. Three striking features emerge. First, it is non-monotone – people with intermediate y are vaccinated more than those with either low or high y. Second, it exhibits an exposure premium among those who do not self-isolate – people with higher x require lower overall risk, xy, to be vaccinated. Third, for those who voluntarily self-isolate, it is invariant to y, depending only upon x. Numerical results demonstrate that policies vaccinating only the most vulnerable perform significantly worse than other simple heuristics, especially when supplies are limited.
Are schools triggering the diffusion of the Covid-19? This question is at the core of an extensive debate about the social and long-run costs of stopping the economic activity and human capital accumulation from reducing the contagion. In principle, many confounding factors, such as climate, health system treatment, and other forms of restrictions, may impede disentangling the link between schooling and Covid-19 cases when focusing on a country or regional-level data. This work sheds light on the potential impact of school opening on the upsurge of contagion by combining a weekly panel of geocoded Covid-19 cases in Sicilian census areas with a unique set of school data. The identification of the effect takes advantage of both a spatial and time-variation in school opening, deriving by the flexibility in opening dates determined by a Regional Decree, and by the occurrence of a national referendum, which pulled a set of poll-station schools towards opening on the 24th of September. The analysis finds that census areas where schools opened before observed a significant and positive increase of Covid-19 cases between 1.5-2.9%. This result is consistent across several specifications, including accounting for several schools opening determinants, such as the number of temporary teachers, Covid-19 cases in August, and pupils with special needs. Besides, school opening increases non-linearly the number of instances in zones observing already some Covid-19 cases. Using the estimated coefficients, this paper also presents a prediction of Covid-19 cases with different school opening scenarios. Finally, an exploration of the heterogeneity at school and demographic levels, including class size and age, poses the basis for calibrated policies to control differential reopening.
Though COVID vaccines are finally available, the rate at which they are administered is slow, and in the meantime the pandemic continues to claim about as many lives every day as the 9/11 tragedy. I estimate that with the promised rate of vaccinations, if no additional non-pharmaceutical interventions are implemented, 406 thousand additional lives will be lost and the future cost of the pandemic will reach $2.4 trillion, or 11% of GDP. Using a cost-benefit analysis, I assess whether it is optimal for the United States to follow the lead of many European countries and introduce a nation-wide lockdown. I find that a lockdown would be indeed optimal and, depending on the assumptions, it should last between two and four weeks and will generate a net benefit of up to $1.2 trillion.
We aim to answer if superior performance by short sellers’ is generated by processing public information rather than by exploiting private information. To achieve this, we analyze if short sellers with healthcare expertise outperform in short selling of non-healthcare stocks compared to those with no healthcare expertise. Since we expect that any short sellers’ private information about healthcare stocks is unlikely to be material for non-healthcare stocks, we conclude that any observed outper-formance in non-healthcare stocks is more likely caused by processing public information. As an identification strategy, we interpret the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic as a treatment to short sellers with healthcare expertise. Our measures of healthcare expertise are based on pre-Covid-19 performance related to either holding or covering a short position in healthcare stocks. Using a unique German sample of daily short selling data, we find that treated short positions identified by general shorting (covering) outperformance are associated with lower 10-day CARs for non-healthcare stocks by an economically significant magnitude of 4.3 percent (7.2 percent). Robustness test rule out that our results are also driven by the use of private information or non information-based trading advantages such as better funding or lending ability of observed short sellers.
We study the impact of the COVID-19 shock on the portfolio exposures of euro area investors. The analysis "looks-through" holdings of investment fund shares to first gauge euro area investors' full exposures to global debt securities and listed shares by sector at end-2019 and to subsequently analyse the portfolio shifts in the first and second quarter of 2020. We show important heterogeneous patterns across asset classes and sectors, but also across euro area less and more vulnerable countries. In particular, we find a broad-based rebalancing towards domestic sovereign debt at the expense of extra-euro area sovereigns, consistent with heightened home bias. These patterns were strongly driven by indirect holdings - via investment funds - especially for insurance companies and pension funds, but levelled off in the second quarter. On the contrary, for listed shares we find that euro area investors rebalanced away from domestic towards extra-euro area securities in both the first and the second quarter, which may be associated with better relative foreign stock market performance. Many of these shifts were only due to indirect holdings, corroborating the importance of investment funds in assessing investors' exposures via securities, in particular in times of large shocks. We also confirm this mechanism in an analysis focusing on the large-scale portfolio rebalancing observed between 2015 and 2017 during the ECB's Asset Purchase Programme.
This research updates early studies on the intention to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus among a representative sample of adults in 6 European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the UK) and differentiated by groups of “acceptors”, “refusers”, and “ hesitant”. The research relies on a set of traditional logistic and more complex classification techniques such as Neural Networks and Random Forest techniques to determine common predictors of vaccination preferences. The findings highlight that socio-demographics are not a reliable measure of vaccination propensity, after one controls for different risk perceptions, and illustrate the key role of institutional and peer trust for vaccination success. Policymakers must build vaccine promotion techniques differentiated according to “acceptors”, “refusers”, and “ hesitant”, while restoring much larger trust in their actions upfront since the pandemics if one wishes the vaccination coverage to close part of the gap to the level of herd immunity.
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The Covid-19 health crisis has led to a substantial increase in work done from home, which shifts economic activity across geographic space. We refer to this shift as a Zoomshock. The Zoomshock has implications for locally consumed services; the clientèle of restaurants, coffee bars, pubs, hair stylists, health clubs located near workplaces now demand those services near where they live. In this paper, we measure the Zoomshock at a granular level for UK neighbourhoods. We establish three important empirical facts. First, the Zoomshock is large; many workers can work-from-home and live in a different neighbourhood than they work. Second, the Zoomshock is very heterogenous; economic activity is decreasing in productive city centres and increasing residential suburbs. Third, the Zoomshock moves workers away from neighbourhoods with a large supply of locally consumed services to neighbourhoods where the supply of these services is relatively scarce. We discuss the implications for aggregate employment and local economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Relying on a novel dataset covering more than 120,000 firms in 60 countries, this paper contributes to the debate about policies to support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. While governments around the world have implemented a wide range of policy support measures, evidence on the reach of these policies, the alignment of measures with firm needs, and their targeting and effectiveness remains scarce. This paper provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of these issues, focusing primarily on the developing economies. It shows that policy reach has been limited, especially for the more vulnerable firms and countries, and identifies mismatches between policies provided and policies most sought. It also provides some indicative evidence regarding mistargeting of policies and their effectiveness in addressing liquidity constraints and preventing layoffs. This assessment provides some early guidance to policymakers on tailoring their COVID-19 business support packages and points to new directions in data and research efforts needed to guide policy responses to the current pandemic and future crises.
We find UK “local lockdowns” of cities and small regions, focused on limiting how many people a household can interact with and in what settings, are effective in turning the tide on rising positive COVID-19 cases. Yet, by focusing on household mixing within the home, these local lockdowns have not inflicted the large declines in consumption observed in March 2020 when the first virus wave and first national lockdown occurred. Our study harnesses a new source of real-time, transaction-level consumption data that we show to be highly correlated with official statistics. The effectiveness of local lockdowns are evaluated applying a difference-in-difference approach which exploits nearby localities not subject to local lockdowns as comparison groups. Our findings indicate that policymakers may be able to contain virus outbreaks without killing local economies. However, the ultimate effectiveness of local lockdowns is expected to be highly dependent on co-ordination between regions and an effective system of testing.
Empirical work described in this paper explains the daily evolution of the reproduction rate, R, and mobility for a large sample of countries, in terms of containment and public health policies. This is with a view to providing insight into the appropriate policy stance as countries prepare for a potentially protracted period characterised by new infection waves. While a comprehensive package of containment measures may be necessary when the virus is widespread and can have a large effect on reducing R, they also have effect on mobility and, by extension, economic activity. A wide-ranging package of public health policies – with an emphasis on comprehensive testing, tracing and isolation, but also including mask-wearing and policies directed at vulnerable groups, especially those in care homes – offer the best approach to avoiding a full lockdown while containing the spread of the virus. Such policies may, however, need to be complemented by selective containment measures (such as restricting large public events and international travel or localised lockdowns) both to contain local outbreaks and because implementing some of the recommended public health policies may be difficult to achieve or have unacceptable social costs.
Overall mobility declined during the COVID-19 pandemic because of government lockdowns and voluntary social distancing. Yet, aggregate data mask important heterogeneous effects across segments of the population. Using unique mobility indicators based on anonymized and aggregate data provided by Vodafone for Italy, Portugal, and Spain, we find that lockdowns had a larger impact on the mobility of women and younger cohorts. Younger people also experienced a sharper drop in mobility in response to rising COVID-19 infections. Our findings, which are consistent across estimation methods and robust to a variety of tests, warn about a possible widening of gender and inter-generational inequality.
We analyse the short-term impact of social distancing measures on the US labour market, using a panel threshold model with high frequency (weekly) data on unemployment across US states. We find that changes in the restrictiveness of mandated social distancing, as measured by the Oxford Stringency Index, exert a strong immediate impact on initial unemployment. The unemployment rate is not immediate affected but follows within a very short time (two to four weeks). We also document a substantial asymmetry between tightening and easing: the impact of tightening restrictions is twice as large as that of easing them. The state of the endemic, proxied either by cases or fatalities, constitutes a marginal factor.
This paper is meant to present an overview of what economists have analyzed regarding the implications of two of the main components of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that impact individuals: the increased UI benefits and the stimulus checks. We present the findings from the literature on these two policies implemented in the United States with an eye on potential future governmental interventions.
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Intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, online labour markets are at the core of the economic and policy debate about the future of work and the conditions under which we work online. We analyse the effects of COVID-19 related mobility restrictions on the demand, supply and hiring outcomes for remote work relative to on-site work. We benefit from the fact that the implementation of stay-at-home requirements varies by country, time and level. We use company data from a large European online labour market. Our results suggest that the stay-at-home requirements had a positive effect on the demand, supply and hiring of remote work relative to on-site work. We also find that the effect of the stay-at-home requirements on the demand, supply and hiring of remote work relative to on-site work varies substantially over time. Additional findings suggest that the stay-at-home effect is non-linear for the demand and supply of remote work and linear for the hiring of remote work. Overall, our results suggest that the flexibility provided by online labour markets may facilitate the adaptation of labour demand and labour supply to unpredicted situations where mobility is restricted.
We use cross-country panel data to examine the effects of a variety of nonpharmaceutical interventions used by governments to suppress the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). We find that while lockdown measures lead to reductions in disease transmission rates as captured by the reproduction number, R_t, gathering bans appear to be more effective than workplace and school closures, both of which are associated with large declines in gross domestic product. Further, our estimates suggest that stay-at-home orders are less effective in countries with larger family size and in developing countries. We also find that incentives are very important, as efforts at ramping up testing and tracing COVID-19 cases are more effective in controlling the spread of disease in countries with greater coverage of paid sick leave benefits. As future waves of the disease emerge, the use of more targeted and better incentivized measures can help keep the epidemic controlled at lower economic cost.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to substantial reductions in earnings. We propose a new measure of financial vulnerability, computable through survey data, to determine whether households can withstand a certain income shock for a defined period of time. Using data from the ECB Household Finance and Consumption Survey (HFCS) we analyse pre-existing financial vulnerability in seven EU countries. We find that income support is essential for many families: 47.2 million individuals, out of the 243 million considered, cannot afford three months of food and housing expenses without privately earned income. Differences across countries are stark, and those born outside of the EU are especially vulnerable. Through a tax-benefit microsimulation exercise, we then derive household net income when employees are laid-off and awarded the COVID-19 employment protection benefits enacted in the different countries. Our findings suggest that the COVID-19 employment protection schemes awarded are extremely effective in reducing the number of vulnerable individuals. The relative importance of rent and mortgage suspensions in alleviating vulnerability is highly country dependent.
I study the impact of corona populism – politics aimed at denying or downplaying the danger posed by COVID-19 – on the evolution of the pandemic using regional data from Austria. The right-wing FPÖ made a corona populist turn at the end of the first wave of infections. Using regression analysis, I show that the vote share of the FPÖ at the last national parliamentary elections is a strong predictor for the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita after the FPÖ switched their policy stance, while there is no or even a negative correlation before the policy switch. These results are robust under simple as well as sophisticated specifications of the model controlling for demographic and socioeconomic conditions. Interestingly, I do not find a statistically significant correlation between the FPÖ vote share and the reported number of infections. I hypothesize that this can be traced back to a self-selection bias in testing, which causes a higher dark figure in FPÖ strongholds. To explore this hypothesis, I extend the classical SIRD model to incorporate conditional quarantine, and heterogeneous mixing of two groups of agents who react differently to the pandemic. Such a model can explain the nontrivial empirics: if mixing is sufficiently homophilic, an increase in the share of “corona sceptics” can cause an increase in the number of deaths without increasing the number of reported infections. I finally discuss the implications for both groups.
Despite promising announcements on an effective vaccine, the control of the Covid-19 pandemic is critically dependent on the maximum compliance of citizens to a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI for short). We use statistical clustering to partition European citizens with regards to their perceptive risks and social attitudes during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and find ten segments to predict, both the extent and mix of protective behaviors adopted. Those segments demonstrate a clear divide in the population, with on one extreme, a segment (representing 8% of the population) that is self-centered and exhibits low self-risk perception as well as low NPI compliance. The other extreme is a segment representing 11% of the population that is more socially oriented, and quite responsive to all protective measures.
Since the data is survey-based, we adjusted responses based on information gap (by reaction time measurement) of both worry expression and NPI compliance, to confirm the robustness of our results. Further, we extend the notion of worries to be not only health-related but to include financial risk (like losing a job) as well as psychological worries (e.g., feeling alone, or being unable to meet with family and friends), as they prove to drive different NPI behaviors among the population.
We analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on electricity consumption patterns in Spain. We highlight the importance of decomposing total electricity consumption into consumption by firms and by households to better understand the economic and social impacts of the crisis. While electricity demand by firms has fallen substantially, the demand by households has gone up. In particular, during the total lockdown, these effects reached -29% and +10% respectively, controlling for temperature and seasonality. While the electricity demand reductions during the second wave were milder, the demand by firms remained 5% below its normal levels. We also document a change in people’s daily routines in response to the stringency of the lockdown measures, as reflected in their hourly electricity consumption patterns.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been severely affected by the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, which struck from January to July 2020. The COVID-19 crisis has had an impact on every industry, with unprecedently profound effects. It has also led to policy responses of a scale never seen before, which has curbed the number of failed SMEs. The expansion of the public credit guarantee system has contributed tremendously to SME financing. We investigated credit guarantee trends in relation to the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis and found that the spread of COVID-19 led to increased use of credit guarantees. The introduction of the new system that eliminated guarantee fees and interest costs, in particular, resulted in an explosive rise in credit guarantee use from May 2020 onwards. This enabled SMEs to borrow despite the significant decline of the macroeconomy. In terms of individual business types, there was a particularly marked rise in the usage of credit guarantees by companies in the restaurant industry, which has been catastrophically affected by the pandemic. The loans accompanied by credit guarantees are being used to make up for revenue deficits, not for profitable capital investment, so many companies will likely have difficulty paying off these loans in the future unless they successfully transform their business model for the post- COVID-19 era.
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Entering the Pandemic Recession, we study the high-frequency real-activity signals provided by a leading nowcast, the ADS Index of Business Conditions produced and released in real-time by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. We track the evolution of real-time vintage beliefs and compare them to a later-vintage chronology. Real-time ADS plunges and then swings as its underlying economic indicators swing, but the ADS paths quickly converge to indicate a return to brisk positive growth by mid-May. We show, moreover, that the daily real activity path was extremely highly correlated with the daily COVID-19 path. Finally, we provide a comparative assessment of the real-time ADS signals provided when exiting the Great Recession.
We study the role of electoral politics in government small business lending, employment, and business formation. We construct novel measures of electoral importance capturing swing and base voters using data from Facebook ad spending, independent political expenditures, the Cook Political Report, and campaign contributions. We find that businesses in electorally important states, districts, and sectors receive more loans following the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, controlling for funding demand and both health and economic conditions. Estimates from survey and observational data show that government funding weakens the adverse effects of the crisis on employment, small business activity, and business applications.
The paper updates the results in Gómez-Pineda (2020) about the depth, length and shape of the covid-19 recession using information up to the December-2020 forecast vintage. The method is a decomposition of output between potential output and the output gap, the former explained by supply shocks and the later, by demand shocks. We find that, compared to the July-2020 forecast vintage, in the December-2020 forecast vintage the median depth of the recession improved 1.1 percentage points in advanced economies while deteriorated 2.3 percentage points in emerging and developing economies. This change in the outlook may be explained by the increase in the prevalence of the disease in the second half of 2020 in emerging and developing economies as well as by the more limited reach of monetary and fiscal policies in emerging and developing economies. The recession is still V-shaped with partial recovery in advanced economies and L-shaped in emerging and developing economies. The results point to the relevance and urgency of policies to support emerging and developing economies.
We analyse ‘stop-and-go’ containment policies which produce infection cycles as periods of tight lock-downs are followed by periods of falling infection rates, which then lead to a relaxation of containment measures, allowing cases to increase again until another lock-down is imposed. The policies followed by several European countries seem to fit this pattern. We show that ’stop-and-go’ should lead to lower medical costs than keeping infections at the midpoint between the highs and lows produced by ’stop-and-go’. Increasing the upper and reducing the lower limits of a stop-and-go policy by the same amount would lower the average medical load. But, increasing the upper and lowering the lower limit while keeping the geometric average constant would have the opposite impact. We also show that with economic costs proportional to containment, any path that brings infections back to the original level (technically a closed cycle) has the same overall economic cost.
We document households' spending responses to a stimulus payment in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese Government launched a universal cash entitlement program offering a sizable lump sum of money to all residents to alleviate the financial burden of the pandemic on households. The timings of cash deposits varied substantially across households due to unexpected delays in administrative procedures. Using a unique panel of 2.8 million bank accounts, we find an immediate jump in spending during the week of payments, followed by moderately elevated levels of spending that persist for more than a month. The implied marginal propensity to consume is 0.49 within 6 weeks. We also document sizable heterogeneity in consumption responses by recipients' financial status and demographic characteristics. In particular, liquid asset holdings play a more crucial role than total asset holdings, suggesting the importance of the wealthy hand-to-mouth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on women's labor market outcomes. We assess the effects of state-level policies that mandated the closure of child care centers or imposed class size restrictions using a triple-differences approach that exploits variation across states, across time, and across women who did and did not have young children who could have been affected. We find some evidence that both of these policies increase the unemployment rate of mothers of young children in the short term. In the long-term, the effects of mandated closures on unemployment become even larger and persist even after states discontinue closures, consistent with a permanent child care supply side effect.
This study explores the link between regular grandparental child care and Sars-CoV-2 infection rates at the level of German counties. In our analysis, we suggest that a region’s infection rates are shaped by region-, household- as well as individual-specific parameters. We extensively draw on the latter, exploring the inner- and outer-family mechanisms fueling individual contact frequency to test the potential role of regular grandparental child care in explaining overall infection rates. We combine aggregate survey data with local administrative data for German counties and find a positive correlation between the frequency of regular grandparental child care and local Sars-CoV-2 infection rates. However, statistical significance of this relationship breaks down as soon as potentially confounding factors, in particular the local Catholic population share, are controlled for. Our findings do not provide valid support for a significant role of grandparental child care in driving Sars-CoV-2 infections and rather suggest that the frequency of outer-family contacts driven by religious communities might be a more relevant channel in this context. Our results cast doubt on simplistic narratives postulating a link between intergenerational contacts and infection rates.
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We provide an estimate of the value of a cure using the joint behavior of stock prices and a vaccine progress indicator during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our indicator is based on the chronology of stage-by-stage progress of individual vaccines and related news. We construct a general equilibrium regime-switching model of repeated pandemics and stages of vaccine progress wherein the representative agent withdraws labor and alters consumption endogenously to mitigate health risk. The value of a cure in the resulting asset-pricing framework is intimately linked to the relative labor supply across states. The observed stock market response to vaccine progress serves to identify this quantity, allowing us to use the model to estimate the economy-wide welfare gain that would be attributable to a cure. In our estimation, and with standard preference parameters, the value of the ability to end the pandemic is worth 5-15% of total wealth. This value rises substantially when there is uncertainty about the frequency and duration of pandemics. Agents place almost as much value on the ability to resolve the uncertainty as they do on the value of the cure itself. This effect is stronger – not weaker – when agents have a preference for later resolution of uncertainty. The policy implication is that understanding the fundamental biological and social determinants of future pandemics may be as important as resolving the immediate crisis.
We exploit geographic variation in the exposure of US banks to COVID-19 and lockdown policies to document the impact of the pandemic and consequent economic crisis on banks. Combining county-level data on COVID-19 and lockdown policies with bank-level data on loan performance and lending growth, and syndicated loan data, we document that banks geographically more exposed to the pandemic and lockdown policies show (i) an increase in loan loss provisions and non-performing loans, (ii) an increase in lending to small businesses, but not in other lending categories, and (iii) an increase in interest spreads and decrease in loan maturities. These findings show that banks have already seen the negative impact of the pandemic and have reacted to higher lending risk with an adjustment in loan conditionality, but have also responded to higher loan demand and government support programmes.
This study investigates U.S. churches' response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by looking at their public Facebook posts. For religious organizations, in-person gatherings are at the heart of their activities. Yet religious in-person gatherings have been identified as some of the early hot spots of the pandemic, but there has also been controversy over the legitimacy of public restrictions on such gatherings. Our sample contains information on church characteristics and Facebook posts for nearly 4000 churches that posted at least once in 2020. The share of churches that offer an online church activity on a given Sunday more than doubled within two weeks at the beginning of the pandemic (the first half of March 2020) and stayed well above baseline levels. Online church activities are positively correlated with the local pandemic situation at the beginning, but uncorrelated with most state interventions. After the peak of the first wave (mid April), we observe a slight decrease in online activities. We investigate heterogeneity in the church responses and find that church size and worship style explain differences consistent with churches facing different demand and cost structures. Local political voting behavior, on the other hand, explains little of the variation. Descriptive analysis suggests that overall online activities, and the patterns of heterogeneity, remain unchanged through end-November 2020.
If the 2020 surge in working from home became permanent, how would the distribution of jobs and residents within and across U.S. cities change? To study this question, we build a quantitative spatial equilibrium model of job and residence choice with commuting frictions between 4,502 sub-metropolitan locations in the contiguous U.S.A novel feature of our model is the heterogeneity of workers in the fraction of time they work on-site: some workers commute daily, some always work at home, while others alternate between working on-site and remotely. In a counterfactual where remote work becomes more common, residents move from central to peripheral areas within cities, and from large coastal to small interior cities, on average. The reallocation of jobs is less monotonic, with increases both in peripheral locations and in the highest-productivity metropolises. Agglomeration externalities from in-person interactions are crucial for welfare effects. If telecommuters keep contributing to productivity as if they worked on-site, better job market access drives considerable welfare gains, even for those who continue to commute. But if productivity declines in response to the reduction in face-to-face interactions, wages fall and most workers are worse off.
This paper aims to highlight the role of supply chain linkages for the transmission of Covid-19 induced shocks based on the monthly trade of the European Union member states. The paper distinguishes demand and supply shocks as of either domestic or partner country origin and further characterizes the role of the latter based on the bilateral GVC positions, thereby taking into account the possibility of transmission through forward and backward linkages. Using the framework of the gravity model, we find a general decline in trade following the Covid-19 outbreak and significantly negative trade effects associated with Covid-19 cases per capita in both origin and destination country. The combined trade effect of Covid-19 is almost minus 20% for both exports and imports, taking into account the average Covid-19 infection rates in the EU and partner countries from April 2020. While export decreases twice as much in response to an increase in the current number of Covid-19 cases in the destination country than in the origin country, it becomes more sensitive to the Covid-19 situation in the origin country over time, suggesting that import demand shocks have a more immediate effect than export supply ones. Moreover, the results confirm that forward GVC linkages act as a channel for the transmission of (demand) shocks in the supply chain trade. An increase in the incidence of destination’s Covid-19 cases, namely, induces a steeper decline in domestic exports of intermediate products in those destinations with which a country has stronger forward linkages, i.e. in partners positioned further downstream. On the other hand, we fail to find robust evidence for the transmission of Covid-19-induced shocks via backward linkages.
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We analyse the role of international trade and health coordination in times of a pandemic by building a two-economy, two-good trade model integrated into a micro-founded SIR model of infection dynamics. Uncoordinated governments with national mandates can adopt (i) containment policies to suppress infection spread domestically, and (ii) (import) tariffs to prevent infection coming from abroad. The efficient, i.e., coordinated, risk-sharing arrangement dynamically adjusts both policy instruments to share infection and economic risks internationally. However, in Nash equilibrium, uncoordinated trade policies robustly feature inefficiently high tariffs that peak with the pandemic in the foreign economy. This distorts terms of trade dynamics and magnifies the welfare costs of tariff wars during a pandemic due to lower levels of consumption and production as well as smaller gains via diversification of infection curves across economies.
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has triggered unprecedented stimulus policy responses by countries worldwide, particularly fiscal stimulus measures. Given the high fiscal costs, some countries have withdrawn such measures, and other countries are contemplating doing so. In this paper, we empirically examine the impact of the withdrawal of fiscal stimulus policies on stock markets using daily data. To this end, we construct a database of withdrawal events and examine the difference between the pre- and post-event stock price returns using event study analysis and cross-country regressions. The results show a significant negative reaction when stimulus is withdrawn prematurely, i.e., when the daily COVID cases were still high relative to the historical pattern, a reaction which can be compounded by social unrest. The results suggest that markets are concerned about the negative impact of early withdrawals of stimulus on the economic recovery prospect, a risk that policymakers have to account for while contemplating the exit strategy from the exceptional crisis-fighting policies.
This paper provides an empirical analysis of the relationship between the strength of family ties and the spread of Sars-CoV-2. The dataset is constructed for a cross-section of 63 countries combining different data sources, to cover seven dimensions: the spread of the virus, family ties, trust and religion, policies implemented to stop the outbreak, status of the economy, geography, demography. We observe a robust positive relationship between family ties and the contagion rate across the world; in particular, the attitude of parents towards the wellbeing for their children is the main force that drives the positive correlation with the contagion. Instead, the respect toward parents (the variable love-parents) seems to be a component of the family ties which negatively correlates with the diffusion of Sars-CoV-2, leading to the final quadratic relationship between the overall family ties strength and the spread of the virus. As conclusive evidence, we observe that the death rate, as well as the recovery rate, are not affected by the strength of family ties and other social capital variables. What matters, in this case, are structural variables like GPD, number of hospital beds per capita, life expectance, median age and geographical location.
In this article, we rely on a periodic public opinion poll indicator of the performance of the mayor, collected for 103 large cities in Italy and in three waves (2015, 2017, and 2020), to examine whether and to what extent the exogenous shift in policy-making decisions induced by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected citizens’ perceptions regarding attributions of responsibility. We leverage the variation in political alignment between central and local governments and implement a difference-in-differences research design, finding that when decisions are fully centralised (during the lockdown), the voter approval for the mayor of an aligned city decreases by of around 7%. Further analyses suggest that our results are more marked (i) during pre-electoral years as compared to other years of a term and (ii) in cities with a lower level of social capital. Lastly, we document that the decrease in the approval ratings of mayors observed in aligned cities reflects a sense of ‘punishment’ for the lack of central government preparedness against the pandemic.
Impact evaluations of the microeconomic effects of the COVID-19 upheavals are essential but nonetheless highly challenging. Data scarcity and identification issues, due to the ubiquitous nature of the exogenous shock, account for the current dearth of counterfactual studies. To fill this gap, we combine up-to-date quarterly local labor markets (LLMs) data, collected from the Business Register kept by the Union of the Italian Chambers of Commerce, with the machine learning control method for counterfactual building. This allows us to shed light on the pandemic’s impact on the local economic dynamics of one of the hardest-hit countries, Italy. We document that the shock has already caused a moderate drop in employment and firm exit and an abrupt decrease in firm entry at the country level. More importantly, these effects have been dramatically uneven across the Italian territory and spatially uncorrelated with the epidemiological pattern of the first wave. We then use the estimated individual treatment effects to investigate the main predictors of such unbalanced trajectories, finding that the heterogeneity of impacts is primarily associated with interactions among the exposure of economic activities to high social aggregation risks and pre-existing labor market fragilities. These results call for immediate place- and sector-based policy responses.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) represents a simultaneous health and economic shock for the vast majority of countries around the world and a wide range of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) have been used by policymakers to mitigate its spread. It is recognised that this entails an implicit trade-off between health and economic outcomes. This paper investigates this trade-off for 106 developed and developing countries by linking NPIs with quarterly economic growth outcomes. The results indicate that the NPIs that negatively affect growth differ between Advanced Economies (AEs) and Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs). Testing policy was found to have helped in mitigating the negative economic impact in EMDEs. COVID-19 mortality had a larger impact in EMDEs compared to AEs. Overall, the results might suggest a more favourable short-term trade-off between stringency and economic growth for policymakers in EMDEs. However, this does not account for longer-term economic outcomes.
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We use anonymised transaction and bank data from France to document the evolution of consumption and savings dynamics since the onset of the pandemic. We find that consumption has dropped very severely during the nation-wide lockdown but experienced a strong and steady rebound during the Summer, before faltering in late September. This drop in consumption was met with a significant increase in aggregate households' net financial wealth. This excess savings is extremely heterogenous across the income distribution: 50% of excess wealth accrued to the top decile. Households in the bottom decile of the income distribution experienced a severe decrease in consumption, a decrease in savings and an increase in debt. We estimate marginal propensities to consume and show that their magnitude is large, especially at the bottom of the income and liquidity distributions.
Prospective economic developments depend on the behavior of consumer spending. A key question is whether private expenditures recover once social distancing restrictions are lifted or whether the COVID-19 crisis has a sustained impact on consumer confidence, preferences, and, hence, spending. Changes in consumer behavior may not be temporary, as they may reflect long-term changes in attitudes arising from the COVID-19 experience. This paper uses data from a representative consumer survey in five European countries conducted in summer 2020, after the release of the first wave’s lockdown restrictions. We document the underlying reasons for households’ reduction in consumption in five key sectors: tourism, hospitality, services, retail, and public transports. We identify a large confidence shock in the Southern European countries and a permanent shift in consumer preferences in the Northern European countries. Our results suggest that horizontal fiscal support to all firms risks creating zombie firms and would hinder necessary structural changes to the economy.
We use the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a central piece of the 2020 CARES Act, as a laboratory to separate between favoritism and informational advantages in lending relationships. The PPP mutes information frictions because loans are fully guaranteed by the government and banks need not screen borrowers. We find that firms with prior lending relationships or personal connections to bank executives are more likely to obtain PPP loans. These effects lead to allocative distortions that force connected firms to return their loans. Consistent with favoritism, the role of connections is weaker when the likelihood of detection is higher.
We identify the effects of social distancing policy on reducing the transmission of the COVID-19 spread. We build a model that measures the relative frequency and geographic distribution of COVID-19 infections and provides hypothetical infection distribution in the counties that enacted social distancing policy. We apply the model to a panel of daily COVID-19 infection cases of all counties in the United States and find social distancing lowered the average daily infection cases by 12%. We further provide evidence that the effects are heterogeneous in an individual's income, race, education, and political belief.
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The ongoing discourse about COVID-19 testing revolves around undertesting (i.e., insufficient testing capacity relative to demand). An important yet little studied systematic issue is overdiagnosis (i.e., positive diagnoses for patients with negligible viral loads): recent evidence shows U.S. laboratories have adopted a hyper-sensitive diagnosis criterion for COVID-19 testing, such that up to an estimated 90% of positive diagnoses are for minuscule virus loads. Motivated by this situation, we develop a theory of testing for COVID-19 that explains both undertesting and overdiagnosis. We show that a laboratory has an incentive to inflate the diagnosis criterion, which generates a higher diagnosis-driven demand as a result of contact-tracing efforts, albeit while dampening demand from disease transmission. An inflated diagnosis criterion prompts the laboratory to build a higher testing capacity, which may not fully absorb the inflated demand, so undertesting arises. Finally, we examine a social planner’s problem of whether to mandate the laboratory to report viral load along with its diagnosis, such that a physician or contact tracer can make informed triage decisions. The social planner may prefer not to mandate viral load reporting, because it induces a higher testing capacity and may help reduce disease transmission.
We incorporate age-specific socio-economic interactions in a SIR macroeconomic model to study the role of demographic factors for the COVID-19 epidemic evolution, its macroeconomic effects and possible containment measures. We capture the endogenous response of rational individuals who freely reduce consumption- and labor-related personal exposure to the virus, with interactions that can vary within and across ages, while fail to internalize the impact of their actions on others. The endogenous response amplifies the economic losses, but it implies that the individual behavioral response to the risk of infection is an important ally of the needed policy measures to contain the spread of the virus. Investigating the effect of different combinations of economic shutdown and age-targeted social distancing, we find that there are considerable economic benefits from measures targeting the elderly with higher mortality risk which are not part of the labor force. For any level of social distancing, the implied optimal economic shutdown generates small gains in terms of lives and large output losses over one-year time. These results are confirmed by calibrating the model to match real epidemic and economic data in the context of a scenarios exercise.
Understanding the immediate consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer behaviour is essential for informing the policy makers on the economic cost of strict measures, such as population lockdowns and business shutdowns. Yet, estimating the effect of the health shock on consumption, net of policy restrictions, is challenging because such measures affect consumer choices. South Korea is an interesting case because its policy response in the early stages of the pandemic did not involve such restrictive measures. We exploit this fact to study the consequences of the health shock on consumption. Because the intensity of the pandemic varied greatly across administrative regions, we are able to quantify the direct effect of the health shock on consumption at the epicentre of the pandemic and to compare it with that in locations initially spared from the virus. Further, we quantify spillover effects from the epicentre to the periphery by studying changes in consumption outside of the epicentre. Our results show that consumers adjusted their response as a function of the local and national evolution of the pandemic, refraining from exposing themselves to the health risk in cities and sectors that are relatively more exposed to the virus. This implies that consumers’ voluntary response to the pandemic can contribute to alleviate the trade-off between health and economic objectives, minimising the economic cost and mitigating the spread of the virus.
This paper estimates the effects of school closure on students’ study time and the number of messages sent from teachers to students using an online learning service. We find that both study time and message numbers increased significantly from the beginning of the school closure but they returned to pre-COVID-19 levels when the state of emergency ended in late May 2020. In addition, we find that students with prior access to the online learning service at home and students at higher-quality schools increased their study time more than other students. However, we find no gender differences in these outcomes.
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Once a safe COVID-19 vaccine will become available, there will not be enough supply of it to vaccinate the entire population. Policy makers at national and international level are currently developing vaccine prioritization strategies. However, it is important that these strategies have sufficient levels of public support. We conducted a ranking exercise and a discrete choice experiment on a representative sample of 2,000 Belgians in order to elicit their preferences regarding how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine across the population. We identified that three sub-groups had similarly high levels of support for access priority: the chronically ill, essential professions, and individuals likely to spread the virus the most. We identified two clusters of respondents. While both wanted to vaccinate essential professions, cluster one (N=1058) primarily wanted to target virus spreaders whereas cluster two (N=886) wanted to prioritize the chronically ill. Prioritizing those over 60 years of age was remarkably unpopular. Other strategies such as allocating the vaccine using a ‘lottery’, ‘first-come, first-served’ approach or willingness-to-pay received little support. Public opinion is a key variable for a successful engaged COVID-19 vaccination policy. A strategy simultaneously prioritizing medical risk groups, essential professions and spreaders seems to be most in line with societal preferences. When asked to choose, people agree to vaccinate essential professions but disagree whether to prioritise people with high-medical risk or virus spreaders.
I examine the relationship between mask usage and COVID-19 deaths at the county level. When examining this relationship, even the direction caused by the potential endogeneity bias is unclear. In one direction, characteristics that are known to correlate with a larger amount of potential COVID-19 deaths, such as an older population, may make people more likely to wear masks. This will cause a bias that makes mask usage look less effective than it truly is. In the other direction, areas with higher risk tolerances may have less mask usage, but may at the same time be engaging in other behavior that puts them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. This will cause a bias that makes mask usage look more effective than it truly is. The identification approach exploits a large set of controls and employs percentage of vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election as an instrumental variable for mask usage. The main finding is that a one percentage point increase in the amount of individuals who say they often or frequently wear a mask when within six feet of people will reduce COVID-19 deaths in a county by 10.5%, or six deaths in the average sized county.
A majority of governments around the world unprecedentedly closed schools in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper quantitatively investigates the macroeconomic and distributional consequences of school closures through intergenerational channels in the medium- and long-term. The model economy is a dynastic overlapping generations general equilibrium model in which schools, in the form of public education investments, complement parental investments in producing children's human capital. We calibrate the stationary equilibrium of the model to the U.S. economy and compute the equilibrium responses following unexpected school closure shocks. We find that school closures have moderate long-lasting adverse effects on macroeconomic aggregates such as output. In addition, we find that school closures reduce intergenerational mobility, especially among older children. Finally, we find that lower substitutability between public and parental investments induces larger damages in the aggregate economy and overall lifetime incomes of the affected children, while mitigating negative impacts on intergenerational mobility. In all findings, heterogeneous parental responses to school closures play a key role. Our results provide a quantitatively relevant dimension to consider for policymakers assessing potential costs of school closures.
This paper investigates the state-level differences in government and community responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to different growth trajectories of Covid-19 cases and their connectedness across the U.S. states. Our regression analysis shows that higher growth trajectories are observed in the states that implemented the lax government and community response to the pandemic. Moving to the analysis of spillovers/connectedness of Covid-19 cases across the states, we apply the Diebold-Yilmaz connectedness methodology to the growth rates of Covid-19 cases. Using the total directional connectedness measures, we find that the states with lax government and community response generated connectedness of Covid-19 cases to others. These findings are also supported by the secondary regression analysis of pairwise connectedness measures over time. Finally, the travel intensity between the pairs of states, indirectly measured by the data on smartphone location exposure, contributes significantly to the pairwise directional connectedness of Covid-19 across the states.
The COVID-19 pandemic has a severely negative impact on economic activity. We analyze whether and to what extent mandatory social distancing imposed by lockdown policies and voluntary social distancing triggered by COVID-19 fatality rates have driven growth developments in the first and second quarter of 2020. Based on a sample of 46 countries and making use of OLS, IV and panel fixed effects regressions we find that the stringency of lockdown policies drives growth developments over time, while fatality rates carry an additional weight in explaining cross-country growth differences for each quarter. Finally, vulnerabilities to mandatory and social distancing performed abroad captured by tourism exposure and trade openness, play a non-negligible role in explaining growth differences across countries in the first half of 2020.
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This paper analyzes equilibrium social distancing behavior when pharmaceutical innovations, such as effective vaccines and treatments, are anticipated to arrive. Once such innovations arrive, costly social distancing can be reduced. We characterize how the anticipation of such innovations influences pre-innovation social distancing. When vaccines are anticipated, equilibrium social distancing is ramped up as the arrival date approaches to increase the probability of reaching the post-innovation phase in the susceptible state. In contrast, under anticipated treatment, equilibrium social distancing is phased out by the time of arrival. We compare the equilibrium paths with the socially optimal counterparts and discuss policy implications.
We hand-collect a time-series database of business closures and related restrictions for every county in the United States since March 2020. We then relate these policies to future growth in deaths due to Covid-19. To our knowledge, ours is the most comprehensive database of U.S. Covid-19 business policies that has been assembled to date. Across specifications, stay-at-home orders, mandatory mask requirements, beach and park closures, restaurant closures, and high risk (Level 2) business closures are the policies that most consistently predict lower 4- to 6- week-ahead fatality growth. For example, baseline estimates imply that a county with a mandatory mask policy in place today will experience 4- week and 6- week ahead fatality growth rates that are each 1% lower (respectively) than a county without such an order in place. This relationship is significant, both statistically and in magnitude. It represents 12% of the sample mean of weekly fatality growth. The baseline estimates for stay-at-home, restaurant and high-risk business closures are similar in magnitude to what we find for mandatory mask policies. We fail to find consistent evidence in support of the hypothesis that some of the other business restrictions (such as spa closures, school closures, and the closing of the low- to medium- risk businesses that are typically allowed in Phase I reopenings) predict reduced fatality growth at four-to-six- week horizons. Some policies, such as low- to medium- business risk closures may even be counterproductive. To address potential endogeneity concerns, we conduct two tests. First, we exploit the fact that many county regulations are imposed at the state-level through Governors’ executive orders. Following the intuition that smaller counties often inherit state-level regulations that are intended to reduce transmission and deaths in more populous regions, we remove the 5 most populous counties in each state from the sample. In the second test, we match counties that lie near (but not on) state borders to counties in different states that are also near (but not on) state borders and are within 100 miles of that county. Absent policy differences, these nearby counties should see similar trends in virus transmission; making them good controls. We continue to find that stay-at-home, mandatory masks, beach and park closures, restaurant closures, and high risk business closures all predict declines in future fatality growth.
Using transaction data from 2 million customers of ABN AMRO bank, this paper distinguishes the economic effects of voluntary responses to Covid-19 from those attributable to government lockdown measures. We compare municipalities that experienced large Covid-19 outbreaks with municipalities that had few or no cases, and ﬁnd that the scale of the outbreak in a municipality has a strong negative effect on physical transactions by consumers, including for sectors that were allowed to stay open during the lockdown. We show that these responses are correlated with the intensity of the local outbreak rather than provoked by general perceptions of the outbreak. Our findings imply that the reaction function of the consumer stimulates self-isolation, which has a negative economic impact at the local level. Therefore, one potential path for long-term economic recovery is to diminish the effect of fear and restore consumer confidence by addressing the spread of the virus itself.
Are COVID-19 fatalities large when a federal government does not impose containment policies and instead allow states to implement their own policies? We answer this question by developing a stochastic extension of a SIRD epidemiological model for a country composed of multiple states. Our model allows for interstate mobility. We consider three policies: mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and interstate travel bans. We fit our model to daily U.S. state-level COVID-19 death counts and exploit our estimates to produce various policy counterfactuals. While the restrictions imposed by some states inhibited a significant number of virus deaths, we find that more than two-thirds of U.S. COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented by late September 2020 had the federal government imposed federal mandates as early as some of the earliest states did. Our results highlight the need for early actions by a federal government for the successful containment of a pandemic.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, many cities, states, and countries have `locked down', restricting economic activities in non-essential sectors. Such lockdowns have substantially shrunk production in most countries. This study examines how the economic effects of lockdowns in different regions interact through supply chains, a network of firms for production, simulating an agent-based model of production on supply-chain data for 1.6 million firms in Japan. We further investigate how the complex network structure affects the interactions of lockdowns, emphasising the role of upstreamness and loops by decomposing supply-chain flows into potential and circular flow components. We find that a region's upstreamness, intensity of loops, and supplier substitutability in supply chains with other regions largely determine the economic effect of the lockdown in the region. In particular, when a region lifts its lockdown, its economic recovery substantially varies depending on whether it lifts lockdown alone or together with another region closely linked through supply chains. These results propose the need for inter-region policy coordination to reduce the economic loss from lockdowns.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed major challenges, of which food insecurity is one, to countries across the world. A number of policies have been put in place in response to the development of the outbreak. In this paper, I investigate the impacts of one of these policies, the reopening of the economy, on food security. Using a recent large-scale household survey in the United States, I find that food insecurity is a major problem that could adversely affect people’s health. Using a report on containment policy across states in the United States to construct the level of this policy, I also find that this policy reduced the likelihood of food insecurity. While the overall impact of this policy is expected, how it influenced the causes of food security is more interesting. In particular, while it helped to increase the availability of food to the people in need, it decreased their ability to buy food. Not only reopening policy increased the expenses on food, which made food less affordable, it also had adverse effect on people’s health which prevented them from going out to buy food. I also show how effective the multiple food programs were in the presence of reopening policy. These findings provide valuable evidence to policy makers in mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
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We consider individuals who are privately informed about the probability of being infected by a potentially dangerous disease. Depending on its private health signal, an individual may assign a positive or negative value to getting tested for the disease. Individuals dislike social distancing. The government has scarce testing capacities and scarce resources for enforcing social-distance keeping. We solve the government's problem of setting up an optimal testing-and-social-distancing schedule, taking into account that individuals may lie about their private health signal. Rather than modelling the infection dynamics, we take a snapshot view, that is, we ask what should be done at a particular point in time to curb the current spread of the disease while taking the current well-being of the individuals into account as well. If testing capacities are sufficiently scarce, then it can be optimal to test only a randomly selected fraction of those who want to be tested, and require maximal social distancing precisely for those individuals who wanted a test and ended up not belonging to the tested fraction.
The Covid crisis prompted an unprecedented global economic contraction. Although the worst is likely behind us, the recovery is likely to be uneven, with economic activity in many customer-facing service industries set to remain constrained for some time. I use a quantitative multi-industry model to estimate the economic forces that explain the decline in economic activity in the United States, the Euro Area, Japan and China in the first half of 2020. I then use the model to project the trajectory of the economic recovery. I find that the US, EA and Japan will each face a `98% economy' if half of the constraints faced by customer-facing service industries in the first half of 2020 persist. The economic recovery in China is projected to occur more quickly.
This paper analyzes a prominent dimension of the initial policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic observed in many countries: the imposition of export restrictions and actions to facilitate imports. Using weekly data on the use of trade policy instruments during the first seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic (January-July, 2020) we assess the relationship between the use of trade policy instruments and attributes of pre-crisis public procurement regulation. Controlling for country size, government effectiveness and economic factors, we find that use of export restrictions targeting medical products is strongly positively correlated with the total number of steps and average time required to complete procurement processes in the pre-crisis period. Membership of trade agreements encompassing public procurement disciplines is associated with actions to facilitate trade in medical products. These findings suggest future empirical assessments of the drivers of trade policy during the pandemic should consider public procurement systems.
Industrialization is vital for inclusive and sustainable global development. The two engines of industrialization – innovation and trade – are in danger of being compromised by the COVID-19 pandemic, under conditions increasingly reminiscent of the medieval world. It comes at a time when innovation had already been stagnating under guild-like corporate concentration and dominance, and the multilateral trade system had been buckling under pressure from a return to mercantilist ideas. The COVID-19 pandemic may cause a permanent reduction in innovation and entrepreneurship and may even bring the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) to a premature end. Hence the post-COVID-19 world may be left with trade as the only engine for industrialization for the foreseeable future. If the global community fails to fix the multilateral trade system, the world may start to resemble the Middle Ages in other, even worse, aspects.
We examine possible reallocation effects on venture capital (VC) investment due to the spread of COVID-19 around the globe. Exploiting the staggered nature of the pandemic and transaction-level data, we empirically document a shift of venture capital towards deals in pandemic-related categories. A difference-in-differences analysis estimates significant increases in invested amount and number of deals in such categories. We further highlight several heterogenous effects related to the experience of VC investors, their organizational form, and country of origin. Our results underscore the link between the spread of the pandemic and the functioning of the VC market around the world.
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We explore impacts of the pandemic crisis and associated restrictions to economic activity on paid and unpaid work for men and women in the UK. Using data from the Covid-19 supplement of Understanding Society, we find evidence that labour market outcomes of men and women were roughly equally affected at the extensive margin, as measured by the incidence of job loss or furloughing, but if anything women suffered smaller losses at the intensive margin, experiencing slightly smaller changes in hours and earnings. Within the household, women provided on average a larger share of increased childcare needs, but in an important share of households fathers became the primary childcare providers. These distributional consequences of the pandemic may be important to understand its inequality legacy over the longer term.
Using currently available data we develop a benchmark scenario that finds that a publicly-imposed social distancing rule to curb the spread of COVID-19 ought to be implemented for 12 weeks. We also identify alternative scenarios where the shorter duration social distancing programs seen throughout the United States may be efficient. Our approach is novel in that it accounts for uncertainty in transmission of the disease and the potential for permanent economic effects of social distancing rules. The social distancing rule is treated as an asset whose benefit is uncertain due to the inability to predict the evolution of the disease. The novel features of our approach allow us to draw two conclusions about the efficient timing of public social distancing programs in response to COVID-19. First, uncertainty in transmission leads to a risk premium that creates a modest incentive to delay closing and reopening the economy. Second, hysteresis in economic impacts of social distancing leads to hysteresis in the efficient time to reopen the economy. Because reopening results in a second wave of infections that may be worse than expected and social distancing rules create permanent economic impacts, it is efficient to delay reopening the economy longer than suggested by benefit-cost analyses of social distancing programs. In our benchmark scenario, this bias results in reopening 27 days too soon.
We document the transmission of social distancing practices from the United States to Mexico along migrant networks during the early 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. Using data on pre-existing migrant connections between Mexican and U.S. locations and mobile-phone tracking data revealing social distancing behavior, we find larger declines in mobility in Mexican regions whose emigrants live in U.S. locations with stronger social distancing practices. We rule out confounding pre-trends and use a variety of controls and an instrumental variables strategy based on U.S. stay-at-home orders to rule out the potential influence of disease transmission and migrant sorting between similar locations. Given this evidence, we conclude that our findings represent the effect of information transmission between Mexican migrants living in the U.S. and residents of their home locations in Mexico. Our results demonstrate the importance of personal connections when policymakers seek to change fundamental social behaviors.
We document large-scale urban flight in the United States in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Populations that flee are disproportionately younger, whiter, and wealthier. Regions that saw migrant influx experience greater subsequent COVID-19 case growth, suggesting that urban flight was a vector of disease spread. Urban residents fled to socially connected areas, consistent with the notion that individuals were sheltering with friends and family or in second homes. The association of migration and subsequent case growth persists when instrumenting for migration with social networks, pointing to a causal association.
We use data from Google Trends to predict the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on future births in the United States. First, we show that periods of above-normal search volume for Google keywords relating to conception and pregnancy in US states are associated with higher numbers of births in the following months. Excess searches for unemployment keywords have the opposite effect. Second, by employing simple statistical learning techniques, we demonstrate that including information on keyword search volumes in prediction models significantly improves forecast accuracy over a number of cross-validation criteria. Third, we use data on Google searches during the COVID-19 pandemic to predict changes in aggregate fertility rates in the United States at the state level through February 2021. Our analysis suggests that between November 2020 and February 2021, monthly US births will drop sharply by approximately 15%. For context, this would be a 50% larger decline than that following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and similar in magnitude to the declines following the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919 and the Great Depression. Finally, we find heterogeneous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic across different types of mothers. Women with less than a college education, as well as Black or African American women, are predicted to have larger declines in fertility due to COVID-19. This finding is consistent with elevated caseloads of COVID-19 in low-income and minority neighborhoods, as well as with evidence suggesting larger economic impacts of the crisis among such households.
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This paper starts with a quick overview of results on the classic SIR model and variants allowing for heterogeneity in contact rates. It then notes several implications relevant to model calibrations and policy predictions. Calibrating the classic SIR model to data generated by a heterogeneous model can lead to forecasts that are biased in several ways and to understatement of the forecast uncertainty. Among the biases are that we may underestimate how quickly herd immunity might be reached, underestimate differences across regions, and have biased estimates of the impact of endogenous and policy-driven social distancing.
This paper examines deforestation's effect on the COVID-19 transmission to indigenous peoples and its transmission mechanisms. To that end, I analyze the Brazilian case and use new datasets that cover all the country's municipalities daily. Relying on a fixed-effects model, I find that deforestation is a powerful and consistent variable to explain the transmission of COVID-19 to indigenous populations. The estimates show that one unit increase in deforestation per 100 Km2 is associated, on average, with the confirmation of 2.4 to 5.5 new daily cases of COVID-19 in indigenous people 14 days after the deforestation warnings. One Km2 deforested today results in 9.5% more new COVID-19 cases in two weeks. In accumulated terms, deforestation explains at least 22% of all COVID-19 cases confirmed in indigenous people until 31 August 2020. The evidence suggests that the main mechanisms through which deforestation intensifies human contact between indigenous and infected people are illegal mining and conflicts.
In this study, we estimate the overall impact of the novel Coronavirus pandemic on Chinese exports and differentiate the hypothesized `triple pandemic effect' across its three components: 1) the domestic supply shock; 2) the international demand shock; and 3) the effects of Global Value Chain (GVC) contagion. We find that Chinese exports are very sensitive to the severity of the global Coronavirus outbreaks. Average export elasticity estimates with respect to new Chinese and foreign destination country infections range from -2.5 to -4.6. Against a Covid-19-free counterfactual, our estimates predict that the pandemic has reduced Chinese exports by as much as 40% to 45% during the first half of 2020, but that these losses have peaked and are expected to partially recover by the end of the year. Moreover, we find that all three shocks contribute to the pandemic-induced reduction in Chinese exports, but that GVC contagion exerts the largest and most persistent influence explaining these losses. Among the three shocks, the impact of GVC contagion explains around 75% of the total reduction in Chinese exports, while the domestic supply shock in China accounts for around 10% to 15% and the international demand shock only explains around 5% to 10%. As a result of these varying transmission channels, the pandemic effects appear to be very distinct from those explaining the Great Trade Collapse in 2008-09.
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This paper introduces an information structure into the standard SIR model to investigate the role of targeted lockdown policies in the presence of incomplete information. By allowing for asymptomatic infected agents and symptomatic susceptible agents, such that the presence of a symptom is an imperfect indicator of an agent's health state, we solve for the optimal lockdown policies on symptomatic and non-symptomatic agents. The model is then calibrated to the UK, where we find mitigation measures have reduced the peak of the infection rate from 23.9% to 3.47%, and decreased the number of fatalities by 39.1% if a vaccine is discovered within 18 months. If a uniform lockdown policy is pursued, the costs to the economy are large with GDP falling by 18.3% in the first year. However, through conditioning lockdown policies on the presence of symptoms, these costs may be substantially reduced, with no increase in the number of fatalities.
A survey experiment exposes treatment groups to four messages supporting future vaccination against COVID-19. These treatments emphasize either the risks of the virus or the safety of vaccination, to the respondent personally or to others. For a nationally representative sample, self-reported intent to vaccinate is not significantly different from the control for any message. However, there is a substantial divergence between white non-Hispanic respondents, whose response to all four treatments is close to zero, and non-white or Hispanic respondents, whose intention to vaccinate is over 50% higher in response to a message emphasizing pro-sociality and the safety of others.
How does interconnectedness affect the pandemic? What are the optimal within and between states containment policies? We embed a spatial SIR model into a multi-sector quantitative trade model. We calibrate it to US states and find that interconnectedness increases the death toll by 73,200 lives. A local within-state containment policy minimizes welfare losses relative to a national policy or to one that reduces mobility between states. The optimal policy combines local within- and between-state restrictions and saves 132,200 lives. It includes a peak reduction in mobility of 33% saving approximately 40,000 lives. Different timing of policies across states is key to minimize losses. States like Arizona might have imposed too early internal lockdowns while too late travel restrictions.
This paper examines the effects of pandemics on income inequality, specifically those pandemics that claimed more than 100,000 lives. Given that pandemics are events that rarely occur, we have use data spanning over the last 100 years (1915-2017) and relating to four pandemics. The study includes four countries that had income inequality data covering that period. Using panel data methods – Fixed Effects and Augmented Mean Group estimators – we found a significant effect of these pandemics on declining income inequality. The study argues that based on the characteristics of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely that fatalities are highly concentrated in older age groups, we can neither expect a labor scarcity nor a sharp decline in productivity; however, we could expect a reduction in consumption, the possibility of savings, high unemployment rates, and high public debt ratios. The ultimate effects of COVID-19 on inequality remain unclear so far, as some of its inherent characteristics push for an increase in inequality. In contrast, others push toward a narrowing of the income gap.
We examine self-reported productivity of home workers during lockdown using survey data from the UK. On average, workers report being as productive as at the beginning of the year, before the pandemic. However, this average masks substantial differences across sectors, by working-from-home intensities, and by worker characteristics. Workers in industries and occupations characterized as being suitable for home work according to objective measures report higher productivity on average. Workers who have increased their intensity of working from home substantially report productivity increases, while those who previously always worked from home report productivity declines. Notable groups suffering the worst average declines in productivity include women and those in low-paying jobs. Declines in productivity are strongly associated with declines in mental well-being. Using stated reasons for productivity declines, we provide evidence of a causal effect from productivity to well-being.
We investigate the short term labor market response to the pandemic in Italy and provide a first evaluation of the policies put in place to shield workers from the disruption of economic activity. Using administrative data on a sample of contracts active in the first quarter of 2020, we show that, before the pandemic, workers employed in non-essential activities were in majority men, younger than 35 years old, located in the North of the country and with lower levels of education. When looking at the change in hirings and separations and decomposing it by age, gender, region, type of contract (open-ended or temporary), education level, and sector (essential vs non-essential activities), we find that from the nineth week of the year, there was a pronounced drop in hirings and terminations. On the contrary, firings and quits spiked right after the nineth week, and then dropped significantly, reflecting the effects of the firing freeze and the easing of access to STW compensation schemes. We further explore separations by examining which factors predict the probability of job loss. We find that those workers that were already suffering the consequences of the previous recession (young, temporary, low-skill workers) are those at higher risk of losing their job because of COVID-19. Gender, instead, is a non-significant predictor of job loss in the aggregate.
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We document that racial disparities in COVID-19 in New York City stem from patterns of commuting and housing crowding. During the initial wave of the pandemic, out-of-home activity related to commuting is strongly associated with COVID-19 cases at the ZIP Code level and hospitalization at an individual level. After layoffs of essential workers decreased commuting, case growth continued through household crowding. A larger share of individuals in crowded housing or commuting to essential work are Black, Hispanic, and lower-income. As a result, structural inequalities, rather than population density, help determine the cross-section of COVID-19 risk exposure in urban areas.
The time-dependent reproduction number, Rt, is a key metric used by epidemiologists to assess the current state of an outbreak of an infectious disease. This quantity is usually estimated using time series observations on new cases, or deaths, combining this information with the distribution of the serial interval of transmissions. For a new epidemic, such as COVID-19, the available information on the serial interval is limited. Bayesian methods are often used to combine this limited information with the new cases, with the new cases usually being smoothed by a simple, but to some extent arbitrary, moving average. This paper describes a new class of time series models for tracking and forecasting new cases. The viability of these models and their ability to deal with spikes and second waves is illustrated with data from Germany and Florida. As a by-product, estimates of Rt, together with their standard deviations, can be obtained from the growth rate of new cases. Very few assumptions are needed and those that are made can be checked. This leads us to the conclusion that tracking an epidemic by trying to estimate Rt may be neither necessary nor desirable.
According to conventional wisdom, banks play a special role in providing liquidity in bad times, while capital markets are used to fund investment in good times. Using micro-data on corporate balance sheets following the COVID-19 shock, we provide evidence that instead, the corporate bond market is central to firms' access to liquidity, crowding out bank loans even when the banking sector is healthy. We first show that, contrary to good times, bond issuance is used to increase holdings of liquid assets rather than for real investment. Second, most issuers, including many riskier "high-yield" firms, prefer issuing bonds to borrowing from their bank. Over 40% of bond issuers leave their credit line untouched in 2020Q1. Moreover, a large share of bond issuance is used to repay existing bank loans. This liquidity-driven bond issuance questions the comparative advantage of banks in liquidity provision, and suggests that the V-shaped recovery of bond markets, propelled by the Federal Reserve, is unlikely to lead to a V-shaped recovery in real activity.
On March 24, 2020, India's Prime Minister announced the world's largest COVID-19 lockdown, bringing to a near-halt the economic and social lives of more than one billion Indian residents. This paper quantifies the economic impacts and behavioral changes induced by this unprecedented policy using two unique data sources: Facebook mobility data and a representative sample of previously surveyed low income Delhi households. Compliance with the lockdown was widespread: intra-city movement declined by 80\% following the announcement. The economic consequences have been accordingly severe, with income and days worked falling by 86 and 72\% respectively. Nevertheless, observance of public health directives was high: mask usage rose by 73 percentage points and handwashing became nearly universal, while time spent outdoors and smoking both declined. We also show how government-provided social assistance may have averted more dire predictions of widespread famine, resource scarcity, access to medical care, and security. But the declines in mental health and the near-exhaustion of personal savings, amidst a rising infection rate, indicate an important and evolving role for policy-makers as the crisis continues.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent Government-imposed restrictions have altered the way of life around the globe. Using the newly “Nigeria Baseline COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey 2020”, this paper contributes to the nascent literature on the Economics of COVID-19 by examining the impact of changes in income and social assistance due to the pandemic on the coping strategies of family business owners. We find that family business owners who experienced a reduction in income and those that received social assistance due to the pandemic are likely to increase their coping level. We discuss the policy implications of these findings.
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The Covid-19 pandemic is a major test for governments around the world. We study the political consequences of (mis-)managing the Covid crisis by constructing a high-frequency dataset of government approval for 35 countries. In the first weeks after the outbreak, approval rates for incumbents increase strongly, consistent with a global “rally around the flag” effect. Approval, however, drops again in countries where Covid cases continue to grow. This is especially true for governments that do not implement stringent policies to control the number of infections. Overall, the evidence suggests that loose pandemic policies are politically costly. Governments that placed more weight on health rather than short-term economic outcomes obtained higher approval.
By focusing on the cost conditions at issuance, I find that not only the Covid-19 pandemic effects were different across bonds and firms at different stages, but also that the market composition was significantly affected, collapsing on investment-grade bonds, a segment in which the share of bonds eligible to the ECB corporate programmes strikingly increased from 15% to 40%. At the same time the high-yield segment shrunk to almost disappear at 4%. In addition to a market segmentation along the bond grade and the eligibility to the ECB programmes, another source of risk detected in the pricing mechanism is the weak resilience to pandemic: the premium requested is around 30 basis points and started to be priced only after the early containment actions taken by the national authorities. On the contrary, I do not find evidence supporting an increased risk for corporations headquartered in countries with a reduced fiscal space, nor the existence of a premium in favour of green bonds, which should be the backbone of a possible "green recovery".
We use population-wide data from linked administrative registers to study the distributional pattern of mortality before and during the Covid-19 pandemic in Belgium. Excess mortality is only found among those aged 65 and over. For this group, we find a significant negative income gradient in excess mortality, with excess deaths in the bottom income decile more than twice as high as in the top income decile for both men and women. However, given the high inequality in mortality in normal times, the income gradient in all-cause mortality is only marginally steeper during the peak of the health crisis when expressed in relative terms. Leveraging our individual-level data, we gauge the robustness of our results for other socioeconomic factors and find that conclusions about the income gradient in excess mortality based on aggregate data can be misguided.
Managing the COVID-19 effectively requires a series of mitigating steps that change over time as function of external conditions and previous mitigating steps. Modeling this effectively requires a multi-disciplinary integrative approach that combines epidemiological, economic and social considerations within a unified modeling environment. Our research focuses on incorporating elements from classical utility theory in combination with control theory and machine learning to better model the dynamics of the non-linear trade-offs inherent in managing the pandemic. We postulate a theoretical formulation on how these tradeoffs can be modeled, and demonstrate empirical results to elucidate the limiting factors in finding efficient solutions.
Using zip code-level data and nonparametric estimation, I present eight stylized facts on the US housing market in the COVID-19 era. Some aggregate results are: (1) growth rate of median housing price during the four months (April-August 2020) since the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented monetary easing has accelerated faster than any four-month period in the lead-up to the 2007-09 global financial crisis; (2) the increase in housing demand in response to lower mortgage interest rates displays a structural break since March 2020 (housing demand has increased by much more than before). These results indicate either the existence of “fear of missing out” or COVID-induced fundamental changes in household behavior. In terms of distributional evidence, I find that the increase of housing demand seems more pronounced among the two ends of the income distribution, possibly reflecting relaxed liquidity constraints at the lower end and speculative demand at the higher end. I also find that the developments in housing price, demand, and supply since April 2020 are similar across urban, suburban, and rural areas. The paper highlights the potential unintended consequences of COVID-fighting policies and calls for further studies of the driving forces of the empirical findings.
This paper studies the causal effect of local exposure to the COVID-19 on voting behavior and electoral outcomes using evidence from the regional elections held in Spain on July 12, 2020. Exploiting the variation in exposure to the COVID-19 and using a difference-in-differences identification strategy, we show that turnover was between and 2.2 and 3.3 percentage points lower in municipalities that experienced positive cases of COVID-19. However, we do not find evidence of changes in the vote shares to the incumbent parties at the regional or national levels. We further discuss fear as the potential mechanism driving our results.
This paper studies the effects of COVID-19 on voting turnout using as a case study an election that took place right after the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, the Basque Country regional elections. With the spread of COVID-19 there is a fear that in-person voting will spread the virus, which adds an additional burden to voters that is expected to decrease turnout. We confirm this hypothesis using a difference-in-difference model. We find that COVID-19 caused turnout to decrease by approximately 4.7% in municipalities affected by the virus compared to those that at the time of the election had not been affected by it. This effect on turnout is higher for municipalities affected also by deaths from coronavirus than when affected only by infected cases.
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We develop a model of human interaction to analyze the relationship between globalization and pandemics. Our framework provides joint microfoundations for the gravity equation for international trade and the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) model of disease dynamics. We show that there are cross-country epidemiological externalities, such that whether a global pandemic breaks out depends critically on the disease environment in the country with the highest rates of domestic infection. A deepening of global integration can either increase or decrease the range of parameters for which a pandemic occurs, and can generate multiple waves of infection when a single wave would otherwise occur in the closed economy. If agents do not internalize the threat of infection, larger deaths in a more unhealthy country raise its relative wage, thus generating a form of general equilibrium social distancing. Once agents internalize the threat of infection, the more unhealthy country typically experiences a reduction in its relative wage through individual-level social distancing. Incorporating these individual-level responses is central to generating large reductions in the ratio of trade to output and implies that the pandemic has substantial effects on aggregate welfare, through both deaths and reduced gains from trade.
We document a causal effect of conservative Fox News Channel in the United States on physical distancing during COVID-19 pandemic. We measure county-level mobility covering all U.S. states and District of Columbia produced by GPS pings to 15-17 million smartphones and zip-code-level mobility using Facebook location data. Then, using the historical position of Fox News Channel in the cable lineup as the source of exogenous variation, we show that increased exposure to Fox News led to a smaller reduction in distance traveled and smaller increase in the probability to stay home after the national emergency declaration in the United States. Our results show that slanted media can have a harmful effect on containment efforts during a pandemic by affecting people’s behaviour.
Using data from an original survey conducted in June 2020, this study examines the prevalence, frequency, and productivity of working from home (WFH) practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. The results reveal that the percentage of employees who practiced WFH was approximately 32%. Labor input attributed to WFH arrangements accounted for approximately 19% of total working hours. Highly educated, high-wage, white-collar employees who work in large firms in metropolitan areas tended to practice WFH. The mean WFH productivity relative to working at the usual workplace was about 60% to 70%, and it was lower for employees who started WFH practices only after the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, highly educated, and high-wage employees, as well as long-distance commuters, tended to exhibit a relatively small reduction in WFH productivity.
How do firms' global connectedness and market power affect their performance and resilience during crises? While global production and export networks expose firms to foreign shocks, they potentially make firms less susceptible to domestic shocks through diversification of suppliers and markets. Also, higher market power could provide buffers by allowing bigger margins of adjustments. Using weekly global stock market data, we show that firms with higher global connectedness (via supply chains and exports) and market power (measured by markups) are more resilient to domestic pandemic shocks. These findings contribute to a better understanding of firms' reaction and reallocation during crises.
Utilizing newly available data from the SEC on derivative performance and detailed derivative holdings, this paper studies how derivatives impact mutual fund performance, with an emphasis on the COVID-19 pandemic period. In contrast to previous research concluding derivatives are used for hedging, we find that most active equity funds use derivatives to amplify market exposure. Despite the seemingly small weight, derivatives have a significant impact on funds' leverage and contribute largely to fund returns. In response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19, funds trade more heavily on short derivative positions. This behavior is more prevalent among managers residing in states with early state-level Stay-at home orders, where the risk of recession is likely more salient. Funds that used derivatives for hedging purposes before the crisis significantly outperform nonusers by over 9% during the initial outbreak, as their distribution of derivative returns shifts to the right. By the end of June, they still outperform by 1.6%. On the contrary, funds that used derivatives to amplify market exposure underperform, and their distribution of derivative returns shifts to the left. While they do shift strategies, they are slow to open short positions and remain mostly amplifying funds. Consequently, by the time they shift, the market has already started to recover, so that they lose on their short positions. The shifts in derivative return distributions during the COVID-19 crisis are mostly driven by swap contracts, which have been ignored by prior studies.
The outbreak of COVID-19 led to a spike in the unemployment rate and a decrease in the number of job openings. It is unknown whether this shock in the labor market affects different groups of job seekers equally. With the help of a correspondence study I describe the relationship between labor market conditions and ethnic labor inequality. The results provide evidence of the changes in the ethnic employment gap during the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, these changes are accompanied by fluctuations in the labor market competition.
Issue : 48
Infectious diseases, ideas, new products, and other “infectants” spread in epidemic fashion through social contact. The Covid-19 pandemic, the proliferation of “fake news,” and the rise of antibiotic resistance have thrust economic epidemiology into the forefront of public-policy debate and re-invigorated the field. Focusing for concreteness on disease-causing pathogens, this paper provides a taxonomy of economic-epidemic models, emphasizing both the biology / immunology of the disease and the economics of the social context. An economic epidemic is one whose diffusion through the agent population is generated by agents' endogenous behavior. I highlight properties of the Nash-equilibrium epidemic trajectory and discuss ways in which public-health authorities can change the game for the better, (i) by imposing restrictions on agent activity to reduce the harm done during a viral outbreak and (ii) by enabling diagnostic-informed interventions to slow or even reverse the rise of antibiotic resistance.
Individualism has long been linked to economic growth. Using the COVID-19 pandemic, we show that such a culture can hamper the economy's response to crises, a period with heightened coordination frictions. Exploiting variation in US counties' frontier experience, we show that more individualist counties engage less in social distancing and charitable transfers, two important collective actions during the pandemic. The effect of individualism is stronger where social distancing has higher externality and holds at the individual level when we exploit migrants for identification. Our results suggest that individualism can amplify economic downturns by exacerbating collective action problems.
We find that an entrepreneur's negative personal attitude towards debt – debt aversion – affects the financing decisions of the businesses they run. We conduct a large-scale survey of entrepreneurs and link it to their firms' registry-based financial information. After controlling for a range of observable traits, firms run by highly debt averse entrepreneurs are about nine percentage points less likely to use debt, compared to baseline debt usage of just under 50%. The same entrepreneurs are also almost 25% less likely to take up government-guaranteed debt during the COVID-19 crisis. We also conduct a set of experiments to strengthen a causal interpretation. The experiments randomize the framing of otherwise identical, hypothetical COVID-19 support policies as debt or grants. Framing policies as debt significantly decreases interest.
We study the effects of international supply chain disruptions on real economic activity and prices during the Covid-19 pandemic. We show that US sectors with a large exposure to intermediate goods imports from China contracted significantly and robustly more than other sectors. In particular, highly exposed sectors suffered larger declines in production, employment, imports, and exports. Moreover, input and output prices moved up relative to other sectors, suggesting that real activity declines in sectors with a high China exposure were not particularly driven by a slump in demand. Quantitatively, differences in China exposures accounts for about 9\% of the cross-sectoral variance of industrial production growth during March and April 2020. The estimated effects are short-lived effects and dissipate by July.
Since COVID-19 broke out, there has been renewed interest in understanding the economic and social dynamics of historical and more recent epidemics and pandemics, from the plagues of Antiquity to modern-day outbreaks like Ebola. These events can have significant impacts on the interplay between poverty and social cohesion, i.e. how different groups in society interact and cooperate to survive and prosper. To that effect, this survey paper provides an overview of how social responses to past epidemics and pandemics were determined by the epidemiological and non-epidemiological characteristics of these outbreaks, with a particular focus on the scapegoating and persecution of minority groups, including migrants. We discuss existing theories as well as historical and quantitative studies, and highlight the cases where epidemics and pandemics may lead to milder or more severe forms of scapegoating. Finally, we conclude with a summary of priorities for future research on epidemics, pandemics and social cohesion and discuss the possible effects and policy implications of COVID-19.
We forecast the short-term evolution of the Mexican economy after the COVID-19 shock. We take into account the fact that there is no similar shock observed in contemporaneous data. We combine an econometric procedure with a basic SIR model of the pandemic. To make the forecasts we first calculate an estimate of the shocks that hit the economy starting in March 2020. We then produce several forecasts in which we make variations on two dimensions: introducing a path for the pandemic or not, and if we do, we consider three scenarios. The introduction of paths of the pandemic in which new cases fall has a positive effect on the economy. The main results are the following. First, the shocks that hit the economy starting in March 2020 have the potential to produce a slow recovery of economic activity. In a forecast not conditioned on any path for the pandemic, the annual growth rate of the economy recovers positive values in the second quarter of 2021. Second, in our baseline scenario that includes a pandemic path based on the SIR model, the recovery is faster, having positive growth rates in the first quarter of 2021. To maximize the benefits of a fall in new cases, policy makers should reduce persistent effects of the initial shock that hit the economy. Otherwise economic activity would tilt towards a longer recession.
Background: Risk communication is a key component of public health interventions during an outbreak. As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in late 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was at the forefront in the development of risk communication strategies. The WHO introduced a range of activities with the purpose of enabling the public to avail verified and timely information on COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Given the various WHO activities to protect the public health during COVID-19, it is important to investigate the extent of familiarity and uptake of the WHO recommendations among the public so far during the pandemic.
Methods: To do this, we conducted a large-scale Pan-European survey covering around 7500 individuals that are representative of populations from seven European countries, collected online during April 2-April 15, 2020. We use descriptive statistics including proportions and correlations and graphical representations such as bar charts to analyze and display the data.
Results: Our findings suggest that information from the WHO in the context of COVID-19 is well trusted and acted upon by the public. Overall familiarity and adherence were quite high in most countries. Adherence was higher for social distancing recommendations compared to hygiene measures. Familiarity and adherence were higher among older, female, and highly educated respondents. However, country level heterogeneities were observed in the level of trust in information from the WHO, with countries severely affected by the pandemic reporting lower levels of trust.
Conclusion: Our findings call for efforts from health authorities to get regular feedback from the public on their familiarity and compliance with recommendations for preventive measures at all stages of the pandemic, to further develop and adapt risk communication as the pandemic evolves.
The unprecedented crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a spontaneous collective effort by the economics profession to contribute both to the immediate policy response to the shock, and also to the debate about the character of the subsequent recovery. This paper describes the current contributions of economists, largely from a UK perspective, and compares – and contrasts – this episode with the activities of economists during WW2. In both cases economists have collectively responded to crisis demands with a strong sense of public service. There are also key differences, including the presence of a formal economics profession in government now in contrast to the earlier period, and also prior critiques of economics as a discipline since at least the 2008 financial crisis. The second world war led to significant innovations in economics and its professional status; the scale of the current crisis may in turn lead to an evolution in the professional character of the discipline.
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The most commonly used test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 is a PCR test that is able to detect very low viral loads and inform on treatment decisions. Medical research has confirmed that many individuals might be infected with SARS-CoV-2 but not infectious. Knowing whether an individual is infectious is the critical piece of information for a decision to isolate an individual or not. This paper examines the value of different tests from an information-theoretic approach and shows that applying treatment-based approval standards for tests for infection will lower the value of those tests and likely causes decisions based on them to have too many false positives (i.e., individuals isolated who are not infectious). The conclusion is that test scoring be tailored to the decision being made.
This paper examines the implications of lockdown policies for asset prices using a susceptible-infected-recovered model with microeconomic foundations of individual economic behaviours. In our model, lockdown policies reduce (i) labour income by decreasing working hours and (ii) precautionary savings by decreasing susceptible agents' probability of getting infected in the future. We qualitatively show that strengthening lockdown measures negatively impacts asset prices at the time of implementation. Our empirical analysis using data from advanced countries supports this finding. Depending on parameter values, our numerical analysis displays a V-shaped recovery of asset prices and an L-shaped recession of consumption. The rapid recovery of asset prices occurs only if the lockdown policies are insufficiently stringent to reduce the number of new periodic cases. This finding implies the possibility that lenient lockdowns have contributed to rapid stock market recovery at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We study the response of daily household spending to the unexpected component of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we label as pandemic shock. Based on daily forecasts of the number of fatalities, we construct the surprise component as the difference between the actual and the expected number of deaths. We allow for state-dependent effects of the shock depending on the position on the curve of infections. Spending falls after the shock and is particularly sensitive to the shock when the number of new infections is strongly increasing. If the number of infections grows moderately, the drop in spending is smaller. We also estimate the effect of the shock across income quartiles. In each state, low-income households exhibit a significantly larger drop in consumption than high-income households. Thus, consumption inequality increase after a pandemic shock. Our results hold for the US economy and the key US states. The findings remain unchanged if we choose alternative state-variables to separate regimes.
Using the universe of Austrian unemployment insurance records until May 2020, we document that the composition of UI claimants during the Covid-19 outbreak is substantially different compared to past times. Using a machine-learning algorithm from Gulyas and Pytka (2020), we identify individual earnings losses conditional on worker and job characteristics.
Covid-19-related job terminations are associated with lower losses in earnings and wages compared to the Great Recession, but similar employment losses. We further derive an accurate but simple policy rule targeting individuals vulnerable to long-term wage losses.
I study the demand for health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic using Special Enrollment Period (SEP) individual-level enrollment data from the Washington State Affordable Care Act Marketplace. I document that most individuals enrolling in plans during the pandemic are those who lost minimum essential coverage, followed by uninsured individuals making use of Washington’s limited-time SEP for uninsured individuals. I estimate a demand model and find that low-income individuals and young individuals are more premium sensitive. I find that 20.4 percent of the individuals in my analysis sample did not pay their initial premium. Individuals losing minimum essential coverage are less likely to pay their initial premium than individuals using the SEP for other qualifying events. Lower income individuals are less likely to pay the initial premium than higher income individuals. My results suggest three reasons for considering more generous premium subsidies during the remainder of the pandemic: (1) individuals losing minimum essential coverage are already using the exchange to replace lost coverage, (2) consumers are premium sensitive, and (3) there are meaningful differences across demographic groups in the probability of paying the first premium, which is necessary for coverage to take effect.
This paper develops a quantitative life cycle model in which economic decisions impact the spread of the COVID-19 and, conversely, the virus affects economic decisions. The calibrated model is used to measure the welfare costs of the pandemic across the age, income, and wealth distribution and to study the effectiveness of various mitigation policies. In the absence of mitigation, young workers engage in too much economic activity relative to the social optimum, leading to higher rates of infection and death in the aggregate. The paper considers a subsidy-and-tax policy that imposes a tax on consumption and subsidizes reduced work compared to a lockdown policy that caps work hours. Both policies are welfare improving and lead to less infections and deaths. Notably, almost all agents favor the subsidy-and-tax policy, suggesting that there need not be a tradeoff between saving lives and economic welfare.
Mass attendance events are a mainstay of economic and social activity. Such events have public health consequences, facilitating the spreading of disease, with attendant economic consequences. There is uncertainty over the impact such events can have on the spread of disease. We investigate the impact of regular mass outdoor meetings on the spread of a virus by considering football matches in England in February and March 2020 and the spread of Covid-19 into April 2020. There were 340 league and cup football matches with a combined attendance of 1.625m people in March, taking place over 188 of 313 local areas. We look at the occurrence and attendance at matches, and how full the stadia were, and how these variables are related to the spread of Covid-19 in April. We evaluate Covid-19 cases, deaths and excess deaths, all as rates of 100,000 people in an area. We find evidence that mass outdoor events were consistent with more cases and deaths, even after controlling for measurable characteristics of local areas. We find that a football match is consistent with around six additional Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, two additional Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people, and three additional excess deaths per 100,000 people. This effect is slightly stronger for the areas of away teams in March, and slightly weaker for matches in February. These results suggest caution in returning to unrestricted spectator attendance at matches. We caveat our analysis though by noting that stadium access and egress routes can be adapted such that some of the opportunities for the spread of an airborne virus could be mitigated. We recommend that the relevant authorities conduct pilot events before determining to what extent fans can return to mass outdoor events.
Issue : 46
Japan's government has taken a number of measures, including declaring a state of emergency, to combat the spread COVID-19. We examine the mechanisms through which the government's policies have led to changes in people's behavior. Using smartphone location data, we construct a daily prefecture-level stay-at-home measure to identify the following two effects: (1) the effect that citizens refrained from going out in line with the government's request, and (2) the effect that government announcements reinforced awareness with regard to the seriousness of the pandemic and people voluntarily refrained from going out. Our main findings are as follows. First, the declaration of the state of emergency reduced the number of people leaving their homes by 8.6% through the first channel, which is of the same order of magnitude as the estimate by Goolsbee and Syverson (2020) for lockdowns in the United States. Second, a 1% increase in new infections in a prefecture reduces people's outings in that prefecture by 0.026%. Third, the government's requests are responsible for about one quarter of the decrease in outings in Tokyo, while the remaining three quarters are the result of information updating on the part of citizens through government announcements and the daily release of the number of infections. Our results suggest that what is necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19 is not strong, legally binding measures but the provision of appropriate information that encourages people to change their behavior.
We use microsimulation to estimate the distributional consequences of covid-19-induced lockdown policies in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Our estimates of the poverty consequences are worse than many others’ projections because we do not assume that the income losses are proportionally equal across the income distribution. We also simulate the effects of most of the expanded social assistance governments have introduced in response to the crisis. This has a large offsetting effect in Brazil and Argentina, much less in Colombia. In Mexico, there has been no such expansion. Contrary to prior expectations, we find that the worst effects are not on the poorest, but those (roughly) in the middle of the ex ante income distribution. In Brazil we find that poverty among the afrodescendants and indigenous populations increases by more than for whites, but the offsetting effects of expanded social assistance also are larger for the former. In Mexico, the crisis induces significantly less poverty among the indigenous population than it does for the nonindigenous one. In all countries the increase in poverty induced by the lockdown is similar for male- and female-headed households but the offsetting effect of expanded social assistance is greater for female-headed households.
Using data collected from one of the most popular ridesharing platforms, we illustrate how mobility has changed after the exit from the Covid-19 induced confinement. We measure the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the level of mobility and the price of ridesharing. Finally, we show that the pandemic has exacerbated ethnic discrimination. Our results suggest that a decision-maker encouraging the use of ridesharing during the pandemic should account for the impact of the perceived health risks on ridesharing prices and should find ways to ensure fair access.
There is a concern among social scientists and policymakers that the COVID-19 crisis might permanently change the nature of work. We study how labor demand in Mexico has been affected during the pandemic by web scraping job ads from a leading job search website. As in the U.S., the number of vacancies in Mexico declined sharply during the lockdown (38 percent). In April there was a change in the composition of labor demand, and wages dropped across the board. By May, however, the wage distribution and the distribution of job ads by occupation returned to their pre-pandemic levels. Overall, there was a slight decline in specific requirements (gender and age), no change in required experience, and a temporary increase in demand for low-skilled workers. Contrary to expectations, opportunities for telecommuting diminished during the pandemic. Using a simple Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition, we find that the variation in the average advertised wage in April is explained more by a higher proportion of low-wage occupations than by a reduction in the wages paid for particular occupations. In sum, we find no evidence of a significant or permanent change in labor demand during the pandemic in Mexico.
We use the Current Employment Statistics Survey microdata to calculate employment changes since February 2020 by employer size. We find that for employers with 1-9 employees, the largest component of employment change since February is due to closings in all months (either temporary or permanent). For 10 or more employees by April, the largest component of employment change since February is employment changes within continuing employers, rather than those reporting zero employment or imputed closures from non-respondents in the survey. In percentage terms, the greatest overall employment losses shifted to larger and larger employers each month. By July, the largest cumulative employment losses were for employers with 100-499 employees, with 8% loss in employment since February, while employers with 1-9 employees had a loss of 4.3% in employment since February.
Recent years have witnessed a surge in demand from investors who invest with a socially responsible mandate. We study stock returns associated with this practice in the COVID-19 crash and the months before it. Based on data on mutual funds, we find that stocks with greater socially conscious investor ownership experience superior returns, lower returns volatility, and better market valuations during the pandemic. No differences are to be found with respect to gross profitability, operating income, and sales growth as well as expectations about the long-term growth rate of earnings per share. This suggests that socially conscious investors can act as a moderating force by mitigating losses in the stock market in a time of crisis.
Issue : 45
In this paper, we provide evidence that the early labor market effects of COVID- 19 have been concentrated on subsets of the workforce already negatively hit by the recent wave of structural change in the occupation and skills of workers. We document that the occupation and education composition of furloughed workers in Denmark is concentrated among individuals with low education or vocational training, as well as specific occupational groups that were on the decline before the crisis hit. Our results strengthen the hypothesis that COVID-19 will accelerate the ongoing structural transitions in the economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated policy responses triggered a historically large wave of capital reallocation between markets, asset classes, and industries. Using high-frequency country-level data, we examine if and how the number of infections, the stringency of the lockdown, and the fiscal and monetary policy response determined the dynamics of portfolio flows, market-implied sovereign risk, and stock prices. We find that these factors played an important role, particularly for emerging markets. Our results indicate that domestic infections had an initial negative impact on flows. Cumulatively, however, the effect was positive and reflected increased demand for financing by affected economies. We also find that both lockdown and fiscal measures supported portfolio flows, driven by an increased supply of funds. Bonds, not equities, were the primary driver of portfolio flows, highlighting a pattern of reallocation to safety. Finally, we show that monetary policy loosening in developed markets led to a cumulative decline in flows, as investors searched for higher yield.
This paper casts some light on the impact of regulatory restrictions on the movement of people across international borders, implemented on health and safety grounds following the COVID-19 outbreak, on services trade costs using some illustrative scenarios where all the countries are assumed to close their borders to passengers, but leave freight trade open. Services trade costs are estimated to increase by an average of 12% of export values across sectors and countries in the medium term in such a hypothetical scenario. The analysis identifies a large variability in the increase in services-trade costs across sectors and across countries, reflecting the stringency of initial regulations and the relative importance of business travel and labour mobility to international services trade.
Social distancing is a matter of individuals’ choices as well as of regulation, and regulation arguably responds to those choices. We analyse weekly panel data on such behaviour for English Upper Tier Local Authorities (UTLAs) from March to July 2020, paying attention to the influence of poverty, as measured by free school meals provision. Panel regressions suggest that, although more stringent regulation and slightly lagged local cases of infection increase social distancing, both effects are weaker in UTLAs with higher levels of poverty. Thus motivated, we develop a two-class (rich/poor) model, in which a Nash non-cooperative equilibrium arises from individual choices in a regulatory regime with penalties for non-compliance. The model yields results in keeping with the empirical findings, indicating the desirability of generous measures to furlough workers in low-paid jobs as a complement to the stringency of general regulation.
We use monthly and daily transaction data from Iran, disaggregated by provinces, good and service categories, and retail store segments to gauge the impact of government emergency loans on consumption patterns. We find that emergency loans are positively related with higher consumption of non-durable and semi-durable goods, suggesting that the emergency loans were predominantly used for their intended purpose. The effects were strongest in the first few days and then dissipated over time. We find effects only for in-store but not online transactions and in poorer rather than richer provinces, suggesting that it is the poorer who reacted more strongly with higher consumption to the emergency loans.
This paper documents that the employment effects of financial aid to U.S. states during the Great Recession were strongly unevenly distributed across sectors. We show that state fiscal relief had a double dividend: not only did it preserve a substantial number of jobs, but it also fostered employment most strongly in the sectors hit hardest by the recession. We exploit differences in the distribution of recessionary job losses across states to draw conclusions for the Covid-19 recession. Our results suggest that the double dividend of state fiscal relief cannot be taken for granted.
The COVID-19 pandemic causes sharp reductions in economic output and sharp increases in government expenditures. This increases the riskiness of sovereign borrowing both domestically and internationally. We propose a framework to study debt sustainability by introducing domestic debt into a sovereign default model, in which the government sets distortionary labour taxes and decides whether to repay its past domestic and foreign obligations. The results show, that foreign default is more likely after a negative productivity shock, while domestic default is more likely after a negative expenditure shock. Even in the case of a recently proposed broad restructuring of foreign debt, governments may still selectively default on their domestic debt obligations.
Issue : 44
We develop an ECON-EPI network model to evaluate policies designed to improve health and economic outcomes during a pandemic. Relative to the standard epidemiological SIR set-up, we explicitly model social contacts among individuals and allow for heterogeneity in their number and stability. In addition, we embed the network in a structural economic model describing how contacts generate economic activity. We calibrate it to the New York metro area during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis and show three main results. First, the ECON-EPI network implies patterns of infections that better match the data compared to the standard SIR. The switching during the early phase of the pandemic from unstable to stable contacts is crucial for this result. Second, the model suggests the design of smart policies that reduce infections and at the same time boost economic activity. Third, the model shows that re-opening sectors characterized by numerous and unstable contacts (such as large events or schools) too early leads to fast growth of infections.
Covid-19 vaccine prioritization is key if the initial supply of the vaccine is limited. A consensus is emerging to first prioritize populations facing a high risk of severe illness in high-exposure occupations. The challenge is assigning priorities next among high-risk populations in low-exposure occupations and those that are young and healthy but work in high-exposure occupations. We estimate occupation-based infection risks and use age-based infection fatality rates in a model to assign priorities over populations with different occupations and ages. Among others, we find that 50-year-old food-processing workers and 60-year-old financial advisors are equally prioritized. Our model suggests a vaccine distribution that emphasizes age-based mortality risk more than occupation-based exposure risk. Designating some occupations as essential does not affect the optimal vaccine allocation unless a stay-at-home order is also in effect. Even with vaccines allocated optimally, 1.37% of the employed workforce is still expected to be infected with the virus until the vaccine becomes widely available, provided the vaccine is 50% effective, and assuming a supply of 60mil doses.
This paper investigates whether the COVID-19 crisis has affected the way we think about (political) institutions, as well as our broader (policy) attitudes and values. We fielded large online survey experiments in Italy, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, well into the first wave of the epidemic (May-June), and included outcome questions on trust, voting intentions, policies & taxation, and identity & values. With a randomised survey flow we vary whether respondents are given COVID-19 priming questions first, before answering the outcome questions. With this treatment design we can also disentangle the health and economic effects of the crisis, as well as a potential “rally around the flag” component. We find that the crisis has brought about severe drops in interpersonal and institutional trust, as well as lower support for the EU and social welfare spending financed by taxes. This is largely due to economic insecurity, but also because of health concerns. A rallying effect around (scientific) expertise combined with populist policies losing ground forms the other side of this coin, and suggests a rising demand for competent leadership.
By scraping data of almost 17 trillion plays of songs on Spotify in six European countries, this work provides evidence that the lockdown imposed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the music consumption in terms of nostalgia. This work constructs a binary measure of nostalgia consumption of music and employs country-specific logistic regressions in which lockdown is taken as a treatment that interacts with a quadratic trend. The lockdown altered the trend of nostalgia consumption upward, which peaked roughly 60 days after the lockdown. A placebo test shows that the upward turn of slope is not an annual pattern. On the other hand, COVID incidence rate does not provide significant additional explanatory power to the model. This work shows that Spotify's users react to the lockdown even when COVID incidence rate is low and the impact stays high even the incidence rate has peaked, suggesting that demand for nostalgia tends to respond to the drastic and lasting change caused by the lockdown rather than to the fluctuations in the viral infection.
We examine the short-term labour market effects of COVID-19 and the associated national lockdown in Australia by estimating person-fixed-effects models using the Longitudinal Labour Force Survey. COVID-19 decreased labour force participation (LFP) by 2.1%, increased unemployment by 1.1% and reduced weekly working hours by 1.1. The national lockdown decreased LFP by 3.3%, increased unemployment by 1.7%, and decreased weekly working hours by 2.5. The probability of working on Fridays decreased by 10% while working fewer hours due to being on leave, work shifts, not having enough work and losing jobs all increased due to the lockdown. The pandemic and the lockdown increased underemployment and job search efforts significantly. In terms of heterogeneity of these effects, our analysis shows that those with up to high-school education experienced larger reductions in their LFP and working hours than others. However, immigrants and individuals with shorter job tenure or occupations unsuitable for remote work were hit the hardest in terms of unemployment.
This note evaluates the expected economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Consensus Forecast surveys. It employs the surveys' forecasts at different horizons. Its main findings are as follows. First, the recovery is expected to be neither U- nor V-shaped but ``akin to a lopsided square root sign'' (Tett (2020)). Second, because the recovery is slow and incomplete, GDP losses during the Lockdown represent a small fraction of the total GDP loss, expected to reach 3 to 4% per annum for the developed countries under review. Third, there are massive differences in the economic toll among countries, which are only partly explained by their public-health performances.
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This study compares this year’s trend of EUIPO’s trademark applications during May and the first twenty days of June to 2019. There are four important findings. First, overall trademark applications appear to be at the same level to last year. Second, there is significant heterogeneity by country. While many countries are at the same levels to last year, China is an outlier increasing its filings dramatically compared to 2019. Certain countries also experience a sharp decrease including Canada and Brazil. Third, the presence of entrants is higher in 2020 compared to the same period of 2019. Finally, there are some clear winners and losers in terms of business activity. Overall, service-related endeavors are less frequent compared to last year while certain product-related initiatives have experienced a significant increase. This study urges dissemination of trademark applications, across Offices, in bulk to facilitate empirical work. Unlike patent applications, which take eighteen months to become known, information on trademark applications is disclosed relatively quickly. Since they can approximate real-time business expectations of demand and are related to innovation and firm value, they can provide us with significant insights in the short-run until more data become available.
Knowing the prevalence of the COVID-19 infection in a population of interest, and how it changes over time and across space, is of fundamental importance for public health. Unfortunately, the fraction of cases who turn out to be positive in a test provides a distorted picture of the prevalence of the infection because the tested cases are not a random sample of the population. Since random testing of the population is costly and complicated to carry out, in this note we show how to use the available information, in conjunction with credible assumptions about unknown quantities, to obtain a range of plausible values for the prevalence of the infection. We discuss the difference between two alternative measures of prevalence and argue that one of the two is much harder to pin down with the data currently available. We apply our method to the Italian data.
Fragmented by policies, united by outcomes: This is the picture of the United States that emerges from our analysis of the spatial diffusion of Covid-19 and the scattered lock-down policies introduced by individual states to contain it. We first use spatial econometric techniques to document direct and indirect spillovers of new infections across county and state lines, as well as the impact of individual states' lock-down policies on infections in neighboring states. We find consistent statistical evidence that new cases diffuse across county lines, holding county level factors constant, and that the diffusion across counties was affected by the closure policies of adjacent states. Spatial impulse response functions reveal that the diffusion across counties is persistent for up to ten days after an increase in adjacent counties. We then develop a spatial version of the epidemiological SIR model where new infections arise from interactions between infected people in one state and susceptible people in the same or in neighboring states. We incorporate lock-down policies into our model and calibrate the model to match both the cumulative and the new infections across the 48 contiguous U.S. states and DC. Our results suggest that, had the states with the less restrictive social distancing measures tightened them by one level, the cumulative infections in other states would be about 5% smaller. In our spatial SIR model, the spatial containment policies such as border closures have a bigger impact on flattening the infection curve in the short-run than on the cumulative infections in the long-run.
This paper uses administrative, survey, and online vacancy data to analyze the short-term labor market impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown in Greece. We find that flows into unemployment have not increased; in fact, separations were lower than would have been expected given trends in recent years. At the same time, employment was about 12 percent lower at the end of June than it would have been without the pandemic. The interrupted time series and difference-in-differences estimates indicate that this was due to a dramatic slowdown in hiring during months when job creation typically peaks in normal years, mostly in tourism. While we do not formally test the reasons for these patterns, our analysis suggests that the measures introduced to mitigate the effects of the crisis in Greece have played an important role. These measures prohibited layoffs in industries affected by the crisis and tied the major form of income support to the maintenance of employment relationships.
Does the ranking of Covid-19 cases by municipalities follow a Zipf ’s law (i.e. an estimated Pareto exponent of one)? This note tries to answer this question using daily data from Brazil for the Mar 30 - Aug 06 period. We used a Poisson Pseudo Maximum Likelihood (PPML) estimator for our estimates and the result is that the Pareto exponent of the ranking of Covid-19 cases is converging to the one obtained for the population ranking and seems to follow the pattern of the Zipf ’s Law. We did the same exercise using Italian regions’ daily data which we use as a proxy to a long run equilibrium as the pandemic is apparently under control there. Contrary to Brazil, the Pareto exponent for the ranking for Covid-19 cases does not converge to the one estimated for the regular population. We try to advance some rationale for this contrasting behavior between them.
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Using online data for prices and real-time debit card transaction data on changes in expenditures for Switzerland allows us to track inflation on a daily basis. While the daily price index fluctuates around the official price index in normal times, it drops immediately after the lockdown related to the COVID19 pandemic. Official statistics reflect this drop only with a lag, specifically because data collection takes time and is impeded by lockdown conditions. Such daily real-time information can be useful to gauge the relative importance of demand and supply shocks and thus inform policy makers who need to determine appropriate policy measures.
The COVID-19 outbreak has cut China’s supply of and raised the world’s demand for face masks, disinfectants, ventilators, and other critical medical goods. This article studies the economic and political factors that are associated with China’s exports of medical equipment during the first two months of the global pandemic. Regression results show that—controlled for demand factors—countries with stronger past economic ties with China import more critical medical goods from China at both the national level and the level of Chinese provinces. Friendly political relations, such as the twinning of provinces, appear to work as a substitute for pre-existing economic ties at the provincial level. These findings imply that, to secure access to medical equipment in crises, countries are well advised to either diversify their sources or to develop closer relations with Beijing and China’s provinces.
Using a simple economic model in which social-distancing reduces contagion, we study the implications of waning immunity for the epidemiological dynamics and social activity. If immunity wanes, we find that COVID-19 likely becomes endemic and that social-distancing is here to stay until the discovery of a vaccine or cure. But waning immunity does not necessarily change optimal actions on the onset of the pandemic. Decentralized equilibria are virtually independent of waning immunity until close to peak infections. For centralized equilibria, the relevance of waning immunity decreases in the probability of finding a vaccine or cure, the costs of infection (e.g., infection-fatality rate), and the presence of other NPIs that lower contagion (e.g., quarantining and mask use). In simulations calibrated to July 2020, our model suggests that waning immunity is virtually unimportant for centralized equilibria until at least 2021. This provides vital time for individuals and policymakers to learn about immunity against SARS-CoV-2 before it becomes critical.
Attempts to constrain the spread of Covid-19 included the temporal reintroduction of travel restrictions and border controls within the Schengen area. While such restrictions clearly involve costs, their benefits have been disputed. We use a new set of daily regional data of confirmed Covid-19 cases from the respective statistical agencies of 18 Western European countries. Our data starts with calendar week 10 (starting 2nd March 2020) and extends to calendar week 17 (ending 26th April 2020), which allows us to test for treatment effects of border controls. Based on PPML methods and a Bayesian INLA approach we find that border controls had a significant effect to limit the pandemic.
This paper establishes a methodology that can be used to measure the behavior of International Monetary Fund (IMF) program design and eventually the outcomes of IMF programs in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We create an IMF COVID RECOVERY INDEX by coding IMF programs based on the extent to which they recommend or condition that borrowing countries increase efforts to combat the virus, protect the vulnerable, and stage a green recovery in accordance with direction from IMF leadership and fiscal guidance notes generated by the IMF Fiscal Affairs Department. Relative to earlier research that suggests the IMF falls short in making such policies part of recovery efforts during times past, our preliminary research indicates that the IMF is indeed prioritizing health and social spending during this crisis—albeit more so in programs where it has little leverage over the implementation of such recommendations. However, IMF support for greening the recovery does not match the rhetoric from IMF leadership or from fiscal guidance notes issued by the IMF Fiscal Affairs department at this time. The IMF COVID RECOVERY INDEX will be updated in real time on the internet, and eventually be used in econometric exercises that examine the extent to which IMF support for confronting the virus, protecting the vulnerable, and mounting a green recovery is associated with those desired outcomes.
This paper studies the labor market effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We focus on the Nordic countries which showed one of the highest variations in NPIs despite having similar community spread of COVID-19 at the onset of the pandemic: While Denmark, Finland and Norway imposed strict measures (`lockdowns'), Sweden decided for much lighter restrictions. Empirically, we use novel administrative data on weekly new unemployment and furlough spells from all 56 regions of the Nordic countries to compare the labor market outcomes of Sweden with the ones of its neighbors. Our evidence suggests that the labor markets of all countries were severely hit by the pandemic, although Sweden performed slightly better than its neighbors. Specifically, we find the worsening of the Swedish labor market to occur around 2 to 3 weeks later than in the other Nordic countries, and that its cumulative sum of new unemployment and furlough spells remained significantly lower during the time period of our study (up to week 21 of 2020).
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Herd immunity is a central concept in epidemiology. It refers to a situation where the amount of recovered and immune individuals is high enough to protect susceptibles from contracting the disease. Herd immunity can be obtained naturally when individuals recover from the disease, or artificially after the administration of an appropriate vaccine. The present paper addresses the question of the amount of public spending in medical research to obtain a vaccine which maximizes welfare. Public spending is assumed to reduce the waiting time to discover a vaccine against an infectious disease evolving according to a SIR model. Both linear and logarithmic preferences are considered with and without time discounting. Worth to note, we show that if an economy has a sufficiently performing technology, then the government should invest as much as the initial public budget allows.
This paper reviews the literature on incorporating behavioural elements into epidemiological models of pandemics. While modelling behaviour by forward-looking rational agents can provide some insight into the time paths of pandemics, the non-stationary nature of Susceptible-Infected-Removed (SIR) models of viral spread makes characterisation of resulting equilibria dicult. Here I posit a shortcut that can be deployed to allow for a tractable equilibrium model of pandemics with intuitive comparative statics and also a clear prediction that effective reproduction numbers (that is, R) will tend towards 1 in equilibrium. This motivates taking ^R = 1 as an equilibrium starting point for analyses of pandemics with behavioural agents. The implications of this for the analysis of widespread testing, tracing, isolation and mask-use is discussed.
Pandemics have heterogeneous effects on the health and economic outcomes of members of the population. To stay in power, politician-policymakers have to consider the health vulnerability- economic vulnerability (HV–EV) profiles of their coalition. We show that the politically optimal pandemic policy (POPP) reveals the HV–EV profile of the smallest, rather than the largest, group in the coalition. The logic of political survival dictates that the preferences of the least loyal, most pivotal, members of the coalition determine policy.
The goal of this paper is to study the impact of the lockdown policy on voting behaviour, during the COVID-19 pandemic. We focus on France, where a differential lockdown was implemented across departments, based on the local diffusion of the disease. In particular, the country has been divided in two areas, red and green, subject to a “hard” and a “soft” lockdown, respectively. To measure voting behaviour, before and after the policy, we rely on 2020 French municipal elections: the first round took place before the introduction of the restrictions, while the second round was delayed after the end of the lockdown. We estimate a Spatial Regression-Discontinuity-Design model comparing the difference in outcomes between the two electoral rounds, at the border of red and green areas. The main results suggest that lockdown regulations significantly affected electoral outcomes. First, in localities under a harder lockdown, the incumbent's vote share is higher as well as the consensus for Green parties. Second, voter turnout is larger where more stringent restrictions are adopted. These results suggest that lockdown measures strongly lead citizens to rally around the local incumbent politicians.
We consider an SIR model where the probability of infections between infected and susceptible individuals are viewed as Poisson trials. The probabilities of infection between pairwise susceptible-infected matches are thus order statistics. This implies that the reproduction rate is a random variable. We derive the first two moments of the distribution of Rt conditional on the information available at time t−1 for Poisson trials drawn from an arbitrary parent distribution with finite mean. We show that the variance of Rt is increasing in the proportion of susceptible individuals in the population, and that ex ante identical populations can exhibit large differences in the path of the virus. This has a number of implications for policy during pandemics. We provide a rationale for why shelter-in-place orders may be a better containment measure than mandating the use of masks because of their impact on the variance of the reproduction rate.
While the coronavirus spreads, governments are attempting to reduce contagion rates at the expense of negative economic effects. Market expectations plummeted, foreshadowing the risk of a global economic crisis and mass unemployment. Governments provide huge financial aid programmes to mitigate the economic shocks. To achieve higher effectiveness with such policy measures, it is key to identify the industries that are most in need of support.
In this study, we introduce a data-mining approach to measure industry- specific risks related to COVID-19. We examine company risk reports filed to the U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This alternative data set can complement more traditional economic indicators in times of the fast-evolving crisis as it allows for a real-time analysis of risk assessments. Preliminary findings suggest that the companies’ awareness towards corona-related business risks is ahead of the overall stock market developments. Our approach allows to distinguish the industries by their risk awareness towards COVID-19. Based on natural language processing, we identify corona-related risk topics and their perceived relevance for different industries.
The preliminary findings are summarised as an up-to-date online index. The CoRisk-Index tracks the industry-specific risk assessments related to the crisis, as it spreads through the economy. The tracking tool is up- dated weekly. It could provide relevant empirical data to inform models on the economic effects of the crisis. Such complementary empirical information could ultimately help policymakers to effectively target financial support in order to mitigate the economic shocks of the crisis.
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Disease spread is in part a function of individual behavior. We examine the factors predicting individual behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States using novel data collected by Belot et al. (2020). Among other factors, we show that people with lower income, less flexible work arrangements (e.g., an inability to tele-work) and lack of outside space at home are less likely to engage in behaviors, such as social distancing, that limit the spread of disease. We also find that individuals in Florida and Texas (versus California and New York), men (versus women) and people who perceive fewer benefits of protective behaviors (versus those perceive more benefits) report lower levels of self-protecting behaviors. Broadly, our findings align with many typical relationships between health and socio-economic status. Moreover, we show that the burden of measures designed to stem the pandemic are unevenly distributed across socio-demographic groups in ways that affect behavior and thus potentially the spread of illness. Policies that assume otherwise are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.
To better understand the trade-offs at play as US states take measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, we investigate the effectiveness of alternative mitigation strategies using panel data estimates informed by epidemiological models. Our analysis evaluates public health outcomes using estimates of the effective reproduction number (Rt), which must drop below 1.0 to achieve sustained reductions in the infectious population. We fit outcomes for Rt on mitigation measures adopted by states, using daily data from early February through late June. Although all of the measures examined help reduce Rt, their effectiveness varies. Reductions in personal mobility on the scale achieved in April can reduce Rt by about a half and are especially effective when paired with stay-at-home orders. Alternatively, our estimates suggest that the virus could be brought under control using less-costly remediation measures. Those measures would likely involve more testing (at a rate of at least 1.75 million per day, if used in isolation), mask wearing requirements (which, in some specifications, are equivalent to testing 1.1mn persons per day), and restrictions on seated dining (which are effective when masks are not mandated). Finally, our estimates suggest that the US is nowhere near the point where “herd immunity” alone can bring infections under control
Effects of the COVID-19 shocks in the Japanese labor market vary across people of different age groups, genders, employment types, education levels, occupations, and industries. We document heterogeneous changes in employment and earnings in response to the COVID-19 shocks, observed in various data sources during the initial months after onset of the pandemic in Japan. We then feed these shocks into a life-cycle model of heterogeneous agents to quantify welfare consequences of the COVID-19 shocks.
In each dimension of the heterogeneity, the shocks are amplified for those who earned less prior to the crisis. Contingent workers are hit harder than regular workers, younger workers than older workers, females than males, and workers engaged in social and non-flexible jobs than those in ordinary and flexible jobs. The most severely hurt by the COVID-19 shocks has been a group of female, contingent, low-skilled workers, engaged in social and non-flexible jobs and without a spouse of a different group.
The paper introduces voluntary social distancing to the canonical epidemiology model, integrated into a conventional macroeconomic model. The model is extended to include treatment, vaccination, and government-enforced lockdown. Infection-averse individuals face a trade-off between a costly social distancing and the risk of getting infected and losing next-period labor income. We find an individual’s social distancing is proportional to the welfare loss she incurs when moving to the infected compartment. It increases in the individual’s psychological discount factor but decreases in the probability of receiving a vaccination. Quantitatively, a laissez-faire social distancing flattens the infection curve that minimizes the economic damage of the epidemic. A government-enforced social distancing is more effective in flattening the infection curve but has a detrimental effect on the economy.
We discuss the impact of a Covid-like shock on a simple toy economy, described by the Mark-0 Agent-Based Model that we developed and discussed in a series of previous papers. We consider a mixed supply and demand shock, and show that depending on the shock parameters (amplitude and duration), our toy economy can display V-shaped, U-shaped or W-shaped recoveries, and even an L-shaped output curve with permanent output loss. This is due to the existence of a self-sustained ``bad'' state of the economy. We then discuss two policies that attempt to moderate the impact of the shock: giving easy credit to firms, and the so-called helicopter money, i.e. injecting new money into the households savings. We find that both policies are effective if strong enough, and we highlight the potential danger of terminating these policies too early. Interestingly, when policy is successful, inflation post-crisis is significantly increased. While we only discuss a limited number of scenarios, our model is flexible and versatile enough to allow for a much wider exploration, thus serving as a useful tool for the qualitative understanding of post-Covid recovery.
This paper investigates the “cultural” transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Using data from Germany we observe that in predominantly Catholic regions with stronger social and family ties, the spread and the resulting deaths per capita were much higher compared to non-Catholic ones at the local NUTS-3 level. The result is strengthened with Difference-in-Difference estimates at the regional NUTS-1 level. This finding could help explain the rapid spread and high death toll of the virus in some European countries compared to others. Looking at differences within a specific country in a well identified setting eliminates biases due to different social structures, health care systems, specific policies and measures, and testing procedures for the virus that can confound estimates and hinder comparability across countries. Further, we use individual level data as well as mobility data from mobile devices to investigate potential mechanisms. The results highlight the cultural dimension of the spread and could suggest the implementation of targeted mitigation measures in light of disease outbreaks.
With the help of growth forecasts and a simple structural model, we build a likely forward-looking account of the depth, length and shape of the recession as well as of the demand and supply shocks that are driving it. The results point to a V-shaped recession with partial recovery in advanced economies and to an L-shaped recession in emerging and developing economies. In addition, the projected shapes likely involve, in advanced economies, an output level shock, and in emerging and developing economies, an output growth shock. The depth and shape of the recession in output is important for fiscal debt sustainability analysis; in this matter the results are robust to the model parameters and assumptions. In turn, the depth and length of the recession in the output gap is critical for monetary and fiscal policies; in this matter we had to appeal to an assumption about the extent of the demand shock. The simple structural model does not have the problem of univariate filters that can misleadingly attribute to demand shocks a large part of the variability of output that is actually originated in supply shocks.
The Covid-19 crisis has led to disruption to schooling across the world. Though it is recognized that pupils are suffering immediate learning loss, there exists a lack of understanding as to how this disruption might affect longer-term educational outcomes. This study considers this issue by examining the effect of school disruption in England due to restrictions put in place to manage the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in cattle in 2001. Using a difference in difference approach, I analyze whether primary schools that had been significantly disrupted by the epidemic experienced lower performance in standardized tests for pupils aged 11 in English, maths and science in the year of the outbreak and in subsequent years. I find that primary schools that had been significantly disrupted by the measures to contain the epidemic exhibited achievement falls in the year immediately after the outbreak, driven by sizeable falls in maths performance. The negative effects weaken in subsequent years suggesting that the effects of school disruption had faded out to some extent by the time that cohorts that were younger at the time of exposure took the age 11 tests.
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The COVID-19 global pandemic has caused significant global economic and social disruption. In McKibbin and Fernando (2020), we used data from historical pandemics to explore seven plausible scenarios of the economic consequences if COVID-19 were to become a global pandemic. In this paper, we use currently observed epidemiological outcomes across countries and recent data on sectoral shutdowns and economic shocks to estimate the likely global economic impacts of the pandemic under six new scenarios. The first scenario explores the outcomes if the current course of COVID-19 is successfully controlled, and there is only a mild recurrence in 2021. We then explore scenarios where the opening of economies results in recurrent outbreaks of various magnitudes and countries respond with and without economic shutdowns. We also explore the impact if no vaccine becomes available and the world must adapt to living with COVID-19 in coming decades. The final scenario is the case where a given country is in the most optimistic scenario (Scenario 1), but the rest of the world is in the most pessimistic scenario. The scenarios demonstrate that even a contained outbreak will significantly impact the global economy in the coming years. The economic consequences of the pandemic under plausible scenarios are substantial and the ongoing economic adjustment is far from over.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and containment measures were a fundamental tool to control the spread of the virus. In this article, we analyze data from 120 countries seeking to assess the stringency of de jure lockdown policies, comparing them with their de facto compliance and empirically analyzing the determinants of social distancing noncompliance. We find that, from a de jure perspective, almost all the strictest and longest lockdowns took place in emerging or developing economies. However, when analyzing its de facto compliance, we document a generalized and increasing non-compliance over time, which is significantly higher in emerging and developing economies. We show that lockdown compliance declines with time, and is lower in countries with stricter quarantines, lower incomes and higher levels of labor precariousness.
We estimate the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on racial animus as measured by Google searches and Twitter posts, including a commonly used anti-Asian racial slur. Our empirical strategy exploits the plausibly exogenous variation in the timing of the first COVID-19 diagnosis across regions in the United States. We find that the first local diagnosis leads to an immediate increase in racist Google searches and Twitter posts, with the latter mainly due to existing Twitter users posting the slur for the first time. This increase could indicate a rise in future hate crimes as we document a strong correlation between the use of the slur and anti-Asian hate crimes using historic data. Moreover, we find that the rise in animosity is directed at Asians rather than other minority groups and is stronger in hours and on days when the connection between the disease and Asians is more salient, as proxied by the number of President Trump’s tweets mentioning China and COVID-19 simultaneously. In contrast, the negative economic impact of the pandemic plays little role in the initial increase in racial animus. Our results suggest that de-emphasizing the connection between the disease and a particular racial group can be effective in curbing current and future racial animus.
COVID-19 has uprooted many aspects of parents’ daily routines, from their jobs to their childcare arrangements. In this paper, we provide a novel description of how parents in England living in two-parent opposite-gender families are spending their time under lockdown. We find that mothers’ paid work has taken a larger hit than that of fathers’, on both the extensive and intensive margins. We find that mothers are spending substantially longer in childcare and housework than their partners and that they are spending a larger fraction of their paid work hours having to juggle work and childcare. Gender differences in the allocation of domestic work cannot be straightforwardly explained by gender differences in employment rates or earnings. Very large gender asymmetries emerge when one partner has stopped working for pay during the crisis: mothers who have stopped working for pay do far more domestic work than fathers in the equivalent situation do.
It is shown that the standard Susceptible Infectious Recovered model of an epidemic implies that there for a large set of epidemic parameter values there will be increasing returns to scale if the objective is to limit the economic cost of infection. The explanation is that if an epidemic has a high basic reproduction number, a given amount of social distancing will not have much effect. The same amount may however be very effective if the reproduction number is lower, (but still larger than one.)
The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have approached the first months of the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic with a range of economic and health policies that have resulted in disparate outcomes. Though similar in behavioral norms and institutions, Denmark, Iceland and Norway chose a precautionary approach that formally shut down schools and businesses to protect human health, while Sweden took a Business-As-Usual (BAU) approach aimed at maintaining normal economic and social activities. Iceland and Denmark have further invested in testing, tracking and containing the disease. Economic costs of the pandemic and government fiscal and monetary interventions to reduce their impacts have been dramatic and similar across countries, while Sweden has had the most severe loss of life. Using a panel from the four countries since the beginning of the pandemic, we calculate lives saved from stricter interventions by estimating cases and deaths as functions of behavior and government interventions with a bioeconomic model, then estimating the additional lives lost if these interventions did not occur. Comparison of the countries reveals three important lessons for both policies aimed at the pandemic and broader goals with high uncertainty levels: (1) the precautionary approach can be lowest cost, while still expensive; (2) detection and monitoring (e.g. testing and tracking) are integral to a successful precautionary approach; and (3) expecting tradeoffs between economic activity and health creates a false dichotomy – they are complements not substitutes. Pandemic policy should focus on minimizing expected costs and damages rather than attempting to exchange health and safety for economic well-being.
Social distancing measures have been introduced in many countries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate of compliance to these measures has varied substantially. We study how cultural differences can explain this variance using data on mobility in Swiss cantons between January and May 2020. We find that mobility declined after the outbreak but significantly less in the German-speaking region. Contrary to the evidence in the literature, we find that within the Swiss context, higher generalized trust in others is strongly associated with lower reductions in individual mobility. Additionally, support for a limited role of the state in matters of welfare is also found to be negatively associated with mobility reduction. We attribute our results to a combination of these cultural traits having altered the trade-off between the chance of contracting the virus and the costs associated with significant alterations of daily activities.
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We present a comprehensive analysis of the performance and flows of U.S. actively managed equity mutual funds during the COVID-19 crisis of 2020. We find that most active funds underperform passive benchmarks during the crisis, contradicting a popular hypothesis. Funds with high sustainability ratings perform well, as do funds with high star ratings. Fund outflows largely extend pre-crisis trends. Investors favor funds that apply exclusion criteria and funds with high sustainability ratings, especially environmental ones. Our finding that investors remain focused on sustainability during this major crisis suggests they view sustainability as a necessity rather than a luxury good.
Using survey responses across nearly 500 listed firms in 10 emerging markets from early April, we find the vast majority of firms were negatively affected by COVID-19. Firms reacted by reducing investment rather than payroll. There is a surprising degree of support vis-à-vis employees, customers, other stakeholders and broader society. Although stock prices initially reacted to the impact of the crisis, delayed stock price reactions suggest evidence of inefficient markets. Furthermore, we find evidence that stakeholder-centric firms experienced lower stock price declines during the crisis drawdown.
I examine how financial markets interact with news about the COVID-19 pandemic. A twelve topic model optimizes the trade-off between number of topics and topic coherence. Using this model, I show that before mid-March 2020 markets react more to the same quantum of news when volatility is higher – a phenomenon I call hypersensitivity. Formal tests identify a structural break in mid-March, post which markets are no longer hypersensitive. In the hypersensitive stage, markets are overly volatile and overreact to news. Despite hypersensitivity, lagged prices better forecast future COVID-19 case counts than do lagged news.
Using individual, race-disaggregated, and georeferenced death data collected by the Cook County Medical Examiner, we look at the impact of COVID-19 on African Americans and at its determinants. First, we provide evidence that - as of June 16, 2020 - blacks in Cook County are dying from COVID-19 at a rate 1.3 times higher than their population share. Second, by combining the spatial distribution of mortality with the redlining maps for the Chicago area, we establish that - after the epidemic outbreak - historically lower-graded neighborhoods display a sharper increase in mortality, driven by blacks. Thus, we uncover a persistence influence of the racial segregation induced by the lending practices of the 1930s, by way of a diminished resilience of African Americans to the COVID-19 shock. Such influence is channeled through socioeconomic status and household composition, and magnified in combination with a higher black share.
Covid-19 and the measures taken to contain it have led to unprecedented constraints on work and leisure activities, across the world. This paper uses nationally representative surveys to document how people of different ages and incomes have been affected across six countries (China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, UK and US). We first document changes in economic variables (income and consumption) and leisure. Second, we document self-reported negative and positive non-financial effects of the crisis. We then examine attitudes towards recommendations (wearing a mask in particular) and the approach taken by public authorities. We find similarities across countries in how people of different generations have been affected. Young people have experienced more drastic changes to their lives, and overall they are less supportive of these measures. These patterns are less clear across income groups: while some countries have managed to shield lower income individuals from negative consequences, others have not. We also show that how people have been affected by the crisis (positively or negatively) does little to explain whether or not they support measures implemented by the public authorities. Young people are overall less supportive of such measures independently of how they have been affected.
We analyze the universe of point-of-sale (POS) transactions before and during the COVID-19 lockdown in Mexico. We find three key results. First, consumption in Mexico fell by 23 percent in the April-June quarter of 2020. Second, reductions in consumption were highly heterogeneous across sectors and states, with states and activities related to tourism the most affected. Third, using variation over time and states, we estimate the elasticity of POS expenditures with respect to geographic mobility (measured using cellphone location data) to be slightly less than 1. This estimate suggests that spending in developing countries may be more responsive to mobility than in developed countries, and that mobility indicators could be used as a real-time proxy for consumption in some economies.
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The transmission and incidence of COVID-19 infections differ markedly across areas in the U.S. Using daily infection rates at the county level, this paper explores how population density and the organization of the city correlate to the speed of transmission and shelter-in-place responses (staying home, avoiding travel). Population density is associated with higher transmission speeds in particular at the start of outbreaks. Density is also associated with stronger sheltering responses, but mostly in later phases of the outbreak. There is a considerable additional role of the urban form (i.e., public transport, work-from-home and local incomes), in transmission and sheltering. Over the course of the pandemic, workplace connections are increasingly less likely to predict infection, and phone movement shows that people avoid heavily infected areas. Altogether, this suggests that densely populated places are initially prone to faster viral spread, and later develop stronger sheltering responses. The considerable spatial differences in both the speed of transmission and the mobility responses to local infection could explain differences in the pandemic's toll across cities and counties.
Two decades after the SARS outbreak, Asia is confronted with COVID-19 which has caused a greater economic impact to the region. In this paper, using China and the ASEAN's experiences of SARS and COVID-19 as a case study, we aim to identify the economic impact of a pandemic that is associated with global production linkages. We construct a novel general equilibrium model of production networks with epidemiological dynamics. Calibrating the model with the OECD inter-country input-output tables for the pre-SARS and pre-COVID-19 periods, and controlling for disease dynamics across years, we find that, in the absence of policy intervention, greater importance of China in the global value chains is associated with greater economic impacts, both within China and in the ASEAN region.
Nonpharmaceutical interventions against the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Germany included the cancellation of mass events (from March 8), closures of schools and child day care facilities (from March 16) as well as a “lockdown” (from March 23). This study attempts to assess the effectiveness of these interventions in terms of revealing their impact on infections over time. Dates of infections were estimated from official German case data by incorporating the incubation period and an empirical reporting delay. Exponential growth models for infections and reproduction numbers were estimated and investigated with respect to change points in the time series. A significant decline of daily and cumulative infections as well as reproduction numbers is found at March 8, March 10 and March 3, respectively. Further declines and stabilizations are found in the end of March. There is also a change point in new infections at April 19, but daily infections still show a negative growth. From March 19, the reproduction numbers fluctuate on a level below one. The decline of infections in early March 2020 can be attributed to relatively small interventions and voluntary behavioural changes. Additional effects of later interventions cannot be detected clearly. Liberalizations of measures did not induce a re-increase of infections. Thus, the effectiveness of most German interventions remains questionable. Moreover, assessing of interventions is impeded by the estimation of true infection dates and the influence of test volume.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the global economy under a scanner. India has also been impacted by the pandemic and as a result, policymakers have undertaken significant set of measures to address the challenge. In this context, using daily state-level data, we utilize the staggered timing of the implementation of lockdown to ascertain its impact on the number of Covid19 cases. Our analysis appears to suggest that notwithstanding the lockdown, the number of Covid19 cases increased by 80% and furthermore, there was a differential impact across states, depending on their extent of health preparedness. Robustness tests support these findings.
Information is an important policy tool for managing epidemics, but issues with data collection may hinder its effectiveness. Focusing on Covid-19 in Mexico, we ask whether delays in reporting deaths affect individuals’ beliefs and behavior. Leveraging an online survey, we randomly provide information to respondents either accounting or not for delays in death reports. We find that not accounting for delays leads to a lower perceived risk of contagion and intention to comply with social distancing. An equilibrium model incorporating the endogenous behavioral response documented by our intervention illustrates the effect of reporting delays on the evolution of the epidemic
The COVID-19, after hitting hard the developed regions of Europe and the United States, is now fast spreading in relatively less developed regions including the Latin America, South Asia and the African continent. In this paper, we examine the impact of socioeconomic conditions on the health outcomes by COVID-19 and the moderating role of government emergency measures on the relationship between socioeconomic conditions and the health outcomes by COVID-19. Using a panel dataset consisting of 9529 daily observations from 80 countries over the period from January 22 to May 20, 2020, we find that socioeconomic circumstances have strong negative association with COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths per million people. Quantitatively, a one standard deviation improvement in socioeconomic conditions lowers COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths per million people by one half. Next, with the help of interaction terms between socioeconomic conditions and government emergency policies, we find that stringent social distancing measures and generous income support programs help to lower the cases and deaths particularly in countries with poor socioeconomic conditions. These findings have important implications to design the right set of government policies to lower the lives losses in countries and regions with poor socioeconomic conditions.
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We use high-frequency indicators to analyze the economic impact of COVID-19 in Europe and the United States during the early phase of the pandemic. We document that European countries and U.S. states that experienced larger outbreaks also suffered larger economic losses. We also find that the heterogeneous impact of COVID-19 is mostly captured by observed changes in people’s mobility, while, so far, there is no robust evidence supporting additional impact from the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions. The deterioration of economic conditions preceded the introduction of these policies and a gradual recovery also started before formal reopening, highlighting the importance of voluntary social distancing, communication, and trust-building measures.
COVID-19 hit firms by surprise. In a high frequency, representative panel of German firms, the business outlook declined and business uncertainty increased only when the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic led to domestic policy changes: The announcement of nation-wide school closures on March 13 caused by far the largest change in business perceptions. In contrast, business perceptions hardly reacted to any other potential source of information: Firms did not learn from foreign policy measures, even if they relied on inputs from China or Italy. The local, county-level spread of COVID-19 cases affected expectations and uncertainty, albeit to a much lesser extent than the domestic policy changes.
Fear and imposed isolation worldwide due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have raised alarms about its impact on mental health on a global scale. Associated with the respiratory disease and the public health threat, confinement, isolation, and social distance were presented as the only effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus. For those who already have psychological disorders, it is one additional factor of distress and tension. For those who do not have them, this is, in the overwhelming majority, a whole new situation and a possible cause of anxiety, stress, and depression. Besides, the severe anticipated global recession, following the lockdown of economies resulting from the virus containment strategies, should lead to substantial increases in unemployment rates and indebtedness levels, which are both risk factors for suicide. History has shown us that previous pandemics and recessions harmed population mental health, having a negative impact, namely in suicidal behaviors. The present literature review intends to alert to the prevention of suicide amid the COVID-19 pandemic, based on past similar scenarios of epidemics, such as the Spanish flu and SARS, and recessions, namely the Great Recession, the Asian economic crisis (1997-1998) and the Russian economic crisis (early 1990s). A positive sign was the fact that at the end of March, several organizations and entities worldwide, namely in Portugal, had (already) made available resources to tackle population stress and avoid negative impacts on mental health. Moreover, specialized publications had warned about the possible effects of COVID-19 on suicidal behaviors. Two months after, the subject was still active and alive on the Web. The literature also shows that the recipe to mitigate depressions and suicide behaviors in times of pandemics and recessions seems to be known: investment in mental healthcare, namely suicide prevention services, and in active employment policies.
In order to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, most governments around the globe have adopted some sort of containment policies. In the light of the enormous costs of these policies, in many countries highly controversial discussions on the adequacy of the chosen policies evolved. We contribute to this discussion by evaluating three waves of containment measures adopted by the German government. Based on a spatio-temporal endemic-epidemic model we show that in retrospective, only the first wave of containment measures clearly contributed to flattening the curve of new infections. However, a real-time analysis using the same empirical model reveals that based on the then available information, the adoption of additional containment measures was warranted. Moreover, our spatio-temporal analysis shows that a one-size-fits-all policy, as it was adopted in Germany on the early stages of the epidemic, is not optimal.
A renewed interest in the ability to work remotely has arisen due to COVID-19. This paper seeks to understand the technological antecedents of that ability. We construct county-level measures of the ability to work at home (wah) using industry and occupation data from a variety of sources, and correlate these with county-level measures of automation and new-task implementation. Empirical results suggest that regions that faced automation produced job opportunities with lower wah, while regions that faced new innovation demonstrate no clear pattern. Finally we show that regions with low wah tend to employ lower-skilled immigrant populations, and have suﬀered higher unemployment due to COVID. Even as many technologies increase the ability of workers to work remotely, automating technologies tend to counter this, raising the potential for the need to shutdown certain industrial centers due to the COVID pandemic.
We use monthly credit card data from the Federal Reserve's Y-14M reports to study the early impact of the COVID-19 shock on the use and availability of consumer credit. First, we find that in counties severely affected by the pandemic, creditworthy borrowers reduce their credit card balances and credit card transactions, while the least creditworthy borrowers increase their outstanding balances. Second, while both local pandemic severity and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) have a significantly negative effect on credit use, the pandemic itself is the main driver. Third, we report a drastic reduction in credit card originations, which is more pronounced in counties affected by pandemic severity and in counties with more stringent NPIs. Finally, we find a reduction in the credit limits and an increase in the APR spreads of newly issued credit cards to the riskiest borrowers, which is consistent with a “flight-to-safety” response of banks to the COVID-19 shock.
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The scientific community has come together in an unprecedented effort to find a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the success of any vaccine depends on the share of the population that gets vaccinated. We design a survey experiment in which a nationally representative sample of 3,133 adults in the U.S. state their intentions to vaccinate themselves and their children for COVID-19. In the experiment, we account for uncertainty about the severity and infectiousness of COVID-19, as well as inconsistencies in risk communication from government authorities, by varying these factors across treatments. We find that 20% of people in the U.S. would decline the vaccine. General vaccine hesitancy (including not having had a flu shot in the last two years), distrust of vaccine safety, and vaccine novelty are among the most important deterrents to vaccination. Further, our results suggest that inconsistent risk messages from public health experts and elected officials reduce vaccine uptake. We use our survey results in an epidemiological model to explore conditions under which a vaccine could achieve herd immunity. We find that in a middle-of-the-road scenario with central estimates of model parameters, a vaccine will benefit public health by saving many lives but nevertheless may fail to achieve herd immunity.
We propose a simple method based on firms' balance sheets and sectoral predictions of sales growth to determine the firms that will become illiquid month by month as the Covid-19 crisis unfolds. We apply the method to the population of Italian incorporated businesses to the end of 2020. We find that at the peak, around 200,000 companies employing 3.3 million workers would become illiquid. The progression is fast, with 180,000 firms turning illiquid already by April. The liquidity shortage, defined as the "negative" liquidity stock of illiquid firms, amounts to 72 billion. We evaluate the Italian government liquidity decree, which provides guarantees for bank loans under four different facilities of increasing complexity. Assuming that firms have access to all the facilities, almost all firms are able to cover their liquidity shortfalls. The issue is the speed of implementation: the facilities supplying more liquidity are more complex to administrate, and many firms require these facilities to cover their liquidity shortfalls. Overall, we conclude that even in the case of a second wave after the summer, which would increase the liquidity shortfall substantially, firms' liquidity needs are manageable under the current schemes of liquidity provision.
This paper estimates the effect of non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) policies on public health during the recent COVID-19 outbreak by considering a counterfactual case for Sweden. Using a synthetic control approach, I find that strict initial lockdown measures played an important role in limiting the spread of the COVID-19 infection and that Swedish policymakers would have eventually reduced the infection cases by more than half had they followed those policies. As people dynamically adjust their behavior in response to information and policies, the impact of NPIs becomes visible with a time lag of around 5 weeks. An alternative difference-in-differences research design that allows for changes in behavioral patterns also confirms the effectiveness of a strict lockdown policy. Finally, extending the analysis to excess mortality, I find that the lockdown measures would have lowered excess mortality in Sweden by 23 percentage points, with a steep age gradient of more than 30 percentage points for the most vulnerable elderly cohort. The outcome of this study can help policymakers lay out future policies to further protect public health, as well as facilitate an economic plan for recovery.
Sharp changes in consumer expenditure may bias inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic. Using public data from debit card transactions, I quantify these changes in consumer spending, update CPI basket weights and construct an alternative price index to measure the effect of the Covid-induced weighting bias on the Swiss consumer price index. I find that inflation was higher during the lock-down than suggested by CPI inflation. The annual inflation rate of the Covid price index was -0.4% by April 2020, compared to -1.1% of the equivalent CPI. Persistent “low-touch” consumer behaviour can further lead to inflation being underestimated by more than a quarter of a percentage point until the end of 2020.
This paper evaluates the dynamic impact of various policies adopted by US states on the growth rates of confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths as well as social distancing behavior measured by Google Mobility Reports, where we take into consideration people's voluntarily behavioral response to new information of transmission risks. Our analysis finds that both policies and information on transmission risks are important determinants of Covid-19 cases and deaths and shows that a change in policies explains a large fraction of observed changes in social distancing behavior. Our counterfactual experiments suggest that nationally mandating face masks for employees on April 1st could have reduced the growth rate of cases and deaths by more than 10 percentage points in late April, and could have led to as much as 17 to 55 percent less deaths nationally by the end of May, which roughly translates into 17 to 55 thousand saved lives. Our estimates imply that removing non-essential business closures (while maintaining school closures, restrictions on movie theaters and restaurants) could have led to -20 to 60 percent more cases and deaths by the end of May. We also find that, without stay-at-home orders, cases would have been larger by 25 to 170 percent, which implies that 0.5 to 3.4 million more Americans could have been infected if stay-at-home orders had not been implemented. Finally, not having implemented any policies could have led to at least a 7 fold increase with an uninformative upper bound in cases (and deaths) by the end of May in the US, with considerable uncertainty over the effects of school closures, which had little cross-sectional variation.
This paper examines the individual records of patients treated for COVID-19 during the early phase of the epidemic in Ontario. We trace out daily transitions of patients through medical care of different intensity and address the right truncation in the database. We also examine the sojourn times and reveal duration dependence in the treatments for COVID-19. The transition model is used to estimate and forecast the counts of patients treated for COVID-19 in Ontario, while accommodating the right truncation and right censoring in the sample. This research is based on the Public Health Ontario (PHO) dataset from May 07, 2020.
I examine the short-term labor market effects of the Great Lockdown in the United States. I analyze job losses by task content (Acemoglu & Autor 2011), and show that they follow underlying trends; jobs with a high non-routine content are especially well-protected, even if they are not teleworkable. The importance of the task content, particularly for non-routine cognitive analytical tasks, is strong even after controlling for age, gender, race, education, sector and location (and hence for differential demand shocks). Jobs subject to higher structural turnover rates are much more likely to be terminated, suggesting that easier-to-replace employees were at a particular disadvantage, even within sectors; at the same time, there is evidence of labor hoarding for more valuable matches. Individuals in low-skilled jobs fared comparatively better in industries with a high share of high-skilled workers.
Using high-frequency panel data for U.S. counties, I estimate the full dynamic response of COVID-19 cases and deaths to exogenous movements in mobility and weather. I find several important results. First, weather and mobility are highly correlated and thus omitting either factor when studying the COVID-19 effects of the other is likely to result in substantial omitted variable bias. Second, temperature is found to have a negative and significant effect on future COVID-19 cases and deaths, though the estimated effect is sensitive to which measure of mobility is included in the regression. Third, controlling for weather, overall mobility is found to have a large positive effect on subsequent growth in COVID-19 cases and deaths. The effects become significant around 2 weeks ahead and persist through around 8 weeks ahead for cases and around 9 weeks ahead for deaths. The peak impact occurs 4 to 6 weeks ahead for cases and around 8 to 9 weeks ahead for deaths. The effects are largest for mobility measured by time spent away from home and time spent at work, though significant effects also are found for time spent at retail and recreation establishments, at transit stations, at grocery stores and pharmacies, and at parks. Fourth, I find that public health non-pharmaceutical interventions affect future COVID-19 cases and deaths, but that their effects work entirely through, and not independent of, individuals' mobility behavior. Lastly, the dynamic effects of mobility on COVID-19 outcomes are found to be generally similar across counties, though there is evidence of larger effects in counties with high cases per capita and that reduced mobility relatively late.
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Most integrated models of the covid pandemic have been developed under the assumption that the policy-sensitive reproduction number is certain. The decision to exit from the lockdown has been made in most countries without knowing the reproduction number that would prevail after the deconfinement. In this paper, I explore the role of uncertainty and learning on the optimal dynamic lockdown policy. I limit the analysis to suppression strategies. In the absence of uncertainty, the optimal confinement policy is to impose a constant rate of lockdown until the suppression of the virus in the population. I show that introducing uncertainty about the reproduction number of deconfined people reduces the optimal initial rate of confinement.
How does the nature of work – teleworkability and contact intensity – shape the distribution of health, labor income, and unemployment risks, created by the COVID-19 pandemic? To answer this question, we consider two contexts. First, we show that the existing spousal nature-of-work-based occupational sorting in the United States matters for the distribution of these risks. In particular, we show that it mitigates the risk of catching COVID-19 through intra-household contagion relative to the case of zero sorting. Furthermore, we show that it creates a larger fraction of couples, who are excessively exposed to labor income and unemployment risks, relative to the case of zero sorting. Second, we document that teleworkable occupations require higher education and experience levels as well as greater cognitive, social, character, and computer skills relative to non-teleworkable occupations. This discrepancy affects labor income and unemployment risks by increasing the likelihood of skill mismatch for newly unemployed workers. Our results imply that the current economic downturn may have long-run effects on employment prospects and earnings of workers who had non-teleworkable or high-contact-intensity jobs at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. We discuss the relevant policy implications and associated policy constraints that follow from our findings.
While the SARS-CoV2 pandemic has led to a rapid increase in unemployment across the United States, some states have fared better than others at minimizing economic damage and suppressing the disease burden. We examine the political factors behind these outcomes at the individual and institutional levels. First, using new daily data from the Gallup Panel between March and June on roughly 45,000 individuals, we document that heterogeneity in beliefs about the pandemic and social distancing behaviors is driven primarily by political affiliation. In fact, it is systematically more predictive than factors directly connected to the disease, including age, county infections per capita, and state public health policies. Second, we investigate how partisanship led states to adopt laxer or stricter policies during the pandemic. While the more extreme policies have had negative effects on either economic activity or public health, middle-of-the-road policies (e.g., mask-mandates) have been more effective at curbing infections without significant economic damages. However, the effectiveness of these policies—and compliance with them—is mediated by political affiliation. Our results suggest that partisanship can have persistent effects on economic activity and health beyond its effects on sentiment, moving individuals and institutions away from optimal policy.
This paper compares the performance of safe haven assets during two stressful stock market regimes – the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis across the ten largest economies in the world shows that the traditional choice, gold, acts as a safe haven during the GFC but fails to protect investor wealth during COVID. Our results suggest that investors might have lost trust in gold. Furthermore, silver does not serve as a safe haven during either crisis, while US Treasuries and the Swiss Franc generally act as strong safe havens during both crises. The US dollar acts as a safe haven during the GFC for all the countries except for the United States, but only for China and India during COVID. Finally, Bitcoin does not serve as a safe haven for all countries during COVID; however, the largest stablecoin, Tether, serves as a strong safe haven. Thus, our results suggest that, during a pandemic, investors should prefer liquid and stable assets rather than gold.
Understanding the determinants and implications of delays in reporting COVID-19 deaths is important for managing the epidemic. Contrasting England and Mexico, we document that reporting delays in Mexico are larger on average, exhibit higher geographic heterogeneity, and are more responsive to the total number of occurred deaths in a given location-date. We then estimate simple SIR models for each country to illustrate the implications of not accounting for reporting delays. Our results highlight the fact that low and middle-income countries are likely to face additional challenges during the pandemic due to lower quality of real-time information.
Since the first death in China in early January 2020, the coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread across the globe and dominated the news headlines leading to fundamental changes in the health, social and political landscape, and an unprecedented negative impact on the current and future prospects of households, businesses and the macro-economy. In this paper, we examine consumer spending responses to the onset and spread of Covid-19, and subsequent government imposed lockdown in Great Britain, GB (England, Scotland, Wales). Our sample period spans January 1st 2020 to 7th April 2020. This allows us to observe consumer spending behavior from the initial incubation phase of the crisis. We partition the sample period into incubation (1st-17th January), outbreak (January 18th-February 21st), fever (February 22nd-March 22nd), lockdown (March 23rd–May 10th 2020) and stay alert (May 11th- June 18th) phases. Using a high frequency transaction level proprietary dataset comprising 101,059 consumers and 23 million transactions made available by a financial technology company, we find that discretionary spending declines during the fever period as the government imposed lockdown becomes imminent, and continues to decline throughout the lockdown period. Shortly after the May 10th ‘stay alert’ announcement by Prime Minister Johnson, a short-term decline in spending across all nations occurs. However, a week later, spending is at the same level as that observed prior to the announcement. There is a strong increase in groceries spending consistent with panic buying and stockpiling behaviour in the two weeks following the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcement describing Covid-19 as a pandemic. Variations in the level and composition of consumer spending across nations and regions (particularly during the early stages of the outbreak period), and by age, gender and income level are also observed. Our results are of particular relevance to government agencies tasked with the design, execution and monitoring economic impacts arising from the spread of the virus and the public health measures imposed to mitigate the health costs of the crisis.
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The value of statistical life (VSL) is a risk-to-money conversion factor that can be used to accurately approximate an individual’s willingness-to-pay for a small change in fatality risk. If an individual’s VSL is (say) $7 million, then she will be willing to pay approximately $7 for a 1-in-1-million risk reduction, $70 for a 1-in-100,000 risk reduction, and so forth.
VSL has played a central role in the rapidly emerging economics literature about COVID-19. Many papers use VSL to assign a monetary value to the lifesaving benefits of social-distancing policies, so as to balance those benefits against lost income and other policy costs. This is not surprising, since VSL (known in the U.K. as “VPF”: value of a prevented fatality) has been a key tool in governmental cost-benefit analysis for decades and is well established among economists.
Despite its familiarity, VSL is a flawed tool for analyzing social-distancing policy—and risk regulation more generally. The standard justification for cost-benefit analysis appeals to Kaldor-Hicks efficiency (potential Pareto superiority). But VSL is only an approximation to individual willingness to pay, which may become quite inaccurate for policies that mitigate large risks (such as the risks posed by COVID-19)—and thus can recommend policies that fail the Kaldor-Hicks test.
This paper uses a simulation model of social-distancing policy to illustrate the deficiencies of VSL. I criticize VSL-based cost-benefit analysis from a number of angles. Its recommendations with respect to social distancing deviate dramatically from the recommendations of a utilitarian or prioritarian social welfare function. In the model here, it does indeed diverge from Kaldor-Hicks efficiency. And its relative valuation of risks and financial costs among groups differentiated by age and income lacks intuitive support. Economists writing about COVID-19 need to reconsider using VSL.
We document a decline in mental well-being after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. This decline is more than twice as large for women as for men. We seek to explain this gender gap by exploring gender differences in: family and caring responsibilities; financial and work situation; social engagement; health situation, and health behaviours, including exercise. We discuss two dimensions of gender differences, the extent to which particular circumstances relate to well-being and the share of individuals facing a given circumstance. Overall, we find that differences in family and caring responsibilities can explain a part of the gender gap, but the bulk is explained by social factors such as loneliness. Other factors such as financial difficulties or age are similarly distributed across genders and thus play little role in explaining the gap.
In this paper, we estimate the effect of the 1918 influenza pandemic on income inequality in Italian municipalities. Our identification strategy exploits the exogenous diffusion of influenza across municipalities by infected soldiers on leave from World War I operations at the peak of the pandemic. Our measures of income inequality come from newly digitized historical administrative records on Italian taxpayer incomes. We show that in the short-/medium-run (i.e., after five years), income inequality is higher in Italian municipalities more afflicted by the pandemic. The effect is mostly explained by a reduction in the share of income held by poorer people. Finally, we provide initial evidence that these differences in income inequality persist even after a century.
This paper uses a survey representative of the UK online population to assess the willingness to accept loss of certain goods. We had conducted an initial survey in February, focusing on ‘free’ online goods and some potential substitutes and comparators. Consistent with other contingent valuation studies, consumers on average assigned valuations to many of these goods, particularly when benchmarked against revenue figures for the services. Our pilot studies, discussed in a forthcoming paper, also suggested that the actual valuations are not well anchored, but the methodology can give consistent rankings among goods. It is also a useful way to assess changes in valuations. Repeating the survey in May, during the UK, lockdown, we observed significant changes in the valuations of different goods and services, with some large differences by age and gender. In this sense the lockdown has acted as a natural experiment testing for the extent to which digital goods and physical goods are substitutes. These valuation changes may indicate which services are most valuable in a post-pandemic world where more activity takes place online. They also provide important, policy-relevant insights into distributional questions
The COVID-19 shock and its unprecedented financial consequences have brought about vast uncertainty concerning the future of climate actions. We study the cross-section of stock returns during the COVID-19 shock to explore investors’ views and expectations about environmental issues. The results show that firms with responsible strategies on environmental issues experience better stock returns. This effect is mainly driven by initiatives addressing climate change (e.g., reduction of environmental emissions and energy use), is more pronounced for firms with greater ownership by investors with long-term orientation and is not observed prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, the results indicate that the COVID-19 shock has not distracted investors’ attention away from environmental issues but on the contrary led them to reward climate responsibility to a larger extent.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic is currently spreading all over the world, we still observe dramatic variation between and, even within, countries in the speed of the infection, in the observed fatality rates and in the effectiveness of the containment measures put in place by most countries. This paper sheds light on the role of culture exploiting the large cultural variation between German and Latin (French and Italian) speaking regions in Switzerland. Consistently with the large difference in social contacts across generations between these two distinct cultural groups, it shows that the disease affected disproportionately elderly people only in Latin regions. Then, it shows that cultural differences are also associated with different levels of compliance with the containment measures put in place by the Swiss government. Mobility data by Google and Apple clearly show that people living in Latin-speaking regions started reducing their movements a week before the lockdown and then complied more strictly than their German counterparts with the policy. This differential compliance across language regions clearly affected the epidemic curves. Using an event study design, we reveal that Latin regions experiencing a faster decline in the growth rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths than their German counterpart.
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This paper investigates telework in Japan during the spread of COVID-19. Using unique survey data, we show which occupations are suited to telework. Our results show that the use of telework increased from 6% in January to 10% in March and reached 17% in June 2020, although remarkably the level is still lower than that of other developed countries (e.g. 37% in Europe). Furthermore, we found that some occupations such as services with face-to-face communication are the most unsuitable for telework. They tended to suffer from negative impacts, such as largely reduced incomes and working hours.
We study the market reactions following staggered lockdown events across U.S. states during Covid-19. We find that returns on firms located in lockdown states are higher following the lockdown. We interpret these market reactions as reflecting updated beliefs of market participants in the light of events that follow the lockdowns, such as compliance with stay-at-home orders. The effect is (a) only significant when the firm’s county has a high number of infections, (b) larger for firms in essential industries, and (c) larger for states with Democratic trifecta. While lockdown extension announcements are associated with negative market reactions, the reaction is still positive when the county’s number of infections is high. These findings suggest that the market perceives Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, when effective, to be beneficial for businesses.
After fitting a topic model to 79,597 COVID-19-related paragraphs in 11,183 conference calls over the period January to April 2020, we obtain measures of firm-level exposure and response to COVID-19 for 3,019 U.S. firms. We show that despite many different ways through which COVID-19 affects their operations, firms with a strong corporate culture do better in the midst of a pandemic than their peers without a strong culture. Moreover, firms with a strong culture are more likely to emphasize community engagement and adopt digital technology, and are no more likely to engage in cost cutting than their peers without a strong culture. To explore the channels through which culture makes firms resilient to the pandemic, we show that firms with a strong culture have higher sales per employee and lower cost of goods sold per employee during the first quarter of 2020. Our results provide support for the notion that corporate culture is an intangible asset designed to meet unforeseen contingencies as they arise (Kreps 1990).
The literature has long documented social capital as a key social determinant of health. However, because personal social interactions are implicated in the spread of viral infections, areas with high levels of social capital may have been especially at risk during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic when spread could not be halted by behavioral changes. We analyzed data from US counties on laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 deaths and relate county level social capital with the number of days it took a county to reach 10 or 15 cases (from January 22) and with case fatality rate in the county between January 22 and May 8 2020. From January 22 on average it took 68 days for a county to reach at least 10 COVID-19 cases. Disease spread was faster the higher the social capital in a community. In counties with average levels of social capital 10 cases were identified by March 29, but in counties with social capital one SD above the average 10 cases were identified by March 26. The difference is equivalent to the difference estimated across two counties that differ in population density by 12,000 people per square mile. Other things being equal we estimate lower case fatality in higher social capital counties, with a reduction of between 0.2% and 0.4% points per SD difference in social capital. As governments lift mandatory social distancing, social capital may play a key role as a social determinant of health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to considerable changes in retail shopping. There has been a significant increase in online shopping compared to on-premise, but due to social distancing and other safety regulations, there have also been significant changes in how on-premise retail is conducted. Prior studies have demonstrated significant effects on product-market concentration from the move to more online shopping, but here we focus on the effects on concentration due to the common change of moving from self-service stores to counter-service. Using a pre-COVID field experiment of a move in the opposite direction, our results suggest that an increase in counter-service shopping is likely to increase product-market concentration, potentially overwhelming the opposite change from the move to online shopping.
This paper shows that the labour market opportunities available to an agent has a significant bearing on how that agent experiences the outbreak of an epidemic. I consider two types of labour (i) market labour that can only produce output in close physical proximity, and (ii) remote labour that can produce output at a distance. This paper develops a Two Agent New Keynesian model extended to include an epidemic bloc and dual feedback between economic decisions and the evolution of the epidemic. I show that an agent restricted to only supply market labour experiences higher death rates vis-à-vis their share of the population, and suffers larger declines in labour and consumption over the course of the epidemic. Post-epidemic, these agents are significantly worse off than their counterparts who can work from home and hence a more unequal society emerges. I then show that simple containment policies, while leading to larger losses in economic prosperity as measured by output loss, can significantly reduce death rates across the population, bring the death rates of the two groups closer together, and reduce the inequality that emerges post epidemic.
What is the role of cultural goods and services during a universal pandemic crisis? This paper aims to demonstrate that culture is predominantly a public good for preserving mental health. We argue that the function of culture in human life has evolutionary roots in individual self-defence of mental health from uncertainty. The current paper uses primary data from a pilot survey conducted during the pandemic COVID-19 combined with Google trends data used to illustrate the effect of the pandemic on aggregate level. Our outcome variables are happiness during COVID-19 and propensity to help others in the periods before and after the start of the pandemic. The evidence from Probit and Heckman sample selection models suggests that people can obtain a mental-health shield for crisis periods through consumption of cultural goods and services in the past. Meanwhile, spontaneous cultural practices during times of uncertainty (such as singing with others) are associated with higher pro-social propensity to help other people. This shows that on micro-level culture is generally under-estimated in its potential role as a public good guaranteeing the psychological resilience in socio-economic shocks. On aggregate level, data about public spending on culture is associated with lower anxiety and less viral fear of death. Therefore, culture should be seriously explored as a tool for mental health prevention, which would be a primary justifications for much more extensive public spending on culture.
The spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections has led to substantial changes in consumption patterns. While demand for services that involve face-to-face contact has decreased sharply, online consumption of goods and services, such as through e-commerce, is increasing. The aim of this study is to investigate whether online consumption will continue to increase even after COVID-19 subsides, using credit card transaction data. Online consumption requires upfront costs, which have been regarded as one of the factors inhibiting the diffusion of online consumption. However, if many consumers made such upfront investments due to the coronavirus pandemic, they would have no reason to return to offline consumption after the pandemic has ended, and high levels of online consumption should continue.
Our main findings are as follows. First, the main group responsible for the increase in online consumption are consumers who were already familiar with online consumption before the pandemic and purchased goods and service both online and offline. These consumers increased the share of online spending in their spending overall and/or stopped offline consumption completely and switched to online consumption only. Second, some consumers that had never used the internet for purchases before started to use the internet for their consumption activities due to COVID-19. However, the share of consumers making this switch was not very different from the trend before the crisis. Third, by age group, the switch to online consumption was more pronounced among youngsters than seniors. These findings suggest that it is not the case that during the pandemic a large number of consumers made the upfront investment necessary to switch to online consumption, so a certain portion of the increase in online consumption is likely to fall away again as COVID-19 subsides.
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We study the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19 deaths by county poverty level in the US. We first document a U-shaped relationship between county groupings by poverty level and the intensity of coronavirus events defined as either coronavirus infections or COVID-19 related deaths. The U-shaped relationship prevails for counties with high population density while in counties with low population density, poorer counties exhibit much higher numbers in coronavirus cases, both in infections and deaths. Second, we investigate the patterns of coronavirus events following the announcements of state level stay-at-home mandates. We distinguish between four groups of states: First, Second, Third and Late Movers. Among First Movers—also the states with the largest share of infections—we observe a decrease in the average number of weekly new cases in rich and poor counties two weeks following the mandate announcement. The average numbers of cases per week in richer counties then quickly converges to the number reported in middle income counties, while the poorer counties show a much slower decrease in coronavirus cases. This pattern is accompanied by a dramatic reduction in mobility in all county groupings. Third, comparing counties in Second and Third Mover states, we show that a few days of delay in non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) results in significantly larger numbers of coronavirus cases compared to states that introduce a mandate quicker. Finally, we use weather shocks as instruments to address endogeneity of the announce
We study planned price changes in German firm-level survey data to infer the relative importance of supply and demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. Supply and demand forces coexist, but demand deficiencies dominate in the short run. Quarter-on-quarter producer price inflation is predicted to decline by as much as 1.5 percentage points through August 2020. These results imply a role for demand stimulus policy to buffer the Covid-19 economic crisis.
We measure the effect of lockdown policies on employment and GDP across countries using individual- and sector-level data. Employment effects depend on the ability to work from home, which ranges from about half of total employment in rich countries to around 35% in poor countries. This gap reflects differences in occupational composition, self-employment levels, and individual characteristics across countries. GDP effects of lockdown policies also depend on countries' sectoral structure. Losses in poor countries are attenuated by their higher value-added share in essential sectors, notably agriculture. Overall, a realistic lockdown policy implies GDP losses of 20-25% on an annualized basis.
We document the magnitudes of and mechanisms behind socioeconomic differences in travel behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. We focus on King County, Washington, one of the first places in the U.S. where COVID-19 was detected. We leverage novel and rich administrative and survey data on travel volumes, modes, and preferences for different demographic groups. Large average declines in travel, and in public transit use in particular, due to the pandemic and related policy responses mask substantial heterogeneity across socioeconomic groups. Travel intensity declined considerably less among less-educated and lower-income individuals, even after accounting for mode substitution and variation across neighborhoods in the impacts of public transit service reductions. The relative inability of less-educated and lower-income individuals to cease commuting explains at least half of the difference in travel responses across groups.
In response to the surge of Covid-19 cases nations focused on reducing mobility to contain transmission of the virus. This change in mobility patterns can be achieved through two channels; (1) voluntary reductions in mobility due to rising public awareness and (2) explicit social distancing policies imposed by governments. In India, two weeks prior to the national lockdown imposed by the central government on 24th March, state governments had started independently enacting social distancing measures. However, there is little empirical evidence on the efficacy of the initial state-level restrictions, in comparison to the national lockdown. Even fewer studies have commented on the role of public awareness in reducing mobility. This paper contributes by comparing the impact of two policy events on mobility: the first Covid-19 social distancing policy imposed by each state and the imposition of the lockdown. We further explore how the news of the first reported case in a state impacted public awareness. The above effects were estimated by using an event study Difference-in-Differences model with time-varying treatment. Results show that while people did seek information in response to the perception that Covid-19 had ‘reached’ their state, they did not reduce out-of-home mobility significantly. However, starting from the second day after the lockdown, time spent in residence increased significantly for each day by 3-4% for the next 21 days. This is in sharp contrast to the insignificant effect of states’ own first policy on mobility. The intervention of the central government had a much larger and persistent impact on mobility than the initial state-level policies, indicating that a unified, coordinated policy intervention is more effective than isolated, subnational efforts.
How should unemployment benefits vary in response to the economic crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic? We answer this question by computing the optimal unem- ployment insurance response to the COVID-induced recession. We compare the optimal policy to the provisions under the CARES Act-which substantially expanded unemployment insurance and sparked an ongoing debate over further increases-and several alternative scenarios. We find that it is optimal first to raise unemployment benefits but then to begin lowering them as the economy starts to reopen - despite unemployment remaining high. We also find that the $600 UI supplement payment implemented under CARES was close to the optimal policy. Extending this UI supplement for another six months would hamper the recovery and reduce welfare. On the other hand, a UI extension combined with a re-employment bonus would further increase welfare compared to CARES alone, with only minimal effects on unemployment.
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While they are rare, superspreading events (SSEs), wherein a few primary cases infect an extraordinarily large number of secondary cases, are recognized as a prominent determinant of aggregate infection rates (R0). Existing stochastic SIR models incorporate SSEs by fitting distributions with thin tails, or finite variance, and therefore predicting almost deterministic epidemiological outcomes in large populations. This paper documents evidence from recent coronavirus outbreaks, including SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, that SSEs follow a power law distribution with fat tails, or infinite variance. We then extend an otherwise standard SIR model with the fat-tailed power law distributions, and show that idiosyncratic uncertainties in SSEs will lead to large aggregate uncertainties in infection dynamics, even with large populations. That is, the timing and magnitude of outbreaks will be unpredictable. While such uncertainties have social costs, we also find that they on average decrease the herd immunity thresholds and the cumulative infections because per-period infection rates have decreasing marginal effects. Our findings have implications for social distancing interventions: targeting SSEs reduces not only the average rate of infection (R0) but also its uncertainty. To understand this effect, and to improve inference of the average reproduction numbers under fat tails, estimating the tail distribution of SSEs is vital.
Social distancing is important to slow the community spread of infectious disease, but it creates enormous economic and social cost. It is thus important to quantify the benefits of different measures. We study the ban of mass gatherings, an intervention with comparably low cost. We exploit exogenous spatial and temporal variation in NBA and NHL games, which arise due to the leagues' predetermined schedules, and the suspension of the 2019-20 seasons. This allows us to estimate the impact of these mass gatherings on the spread of COVID-19 in affected US counties. One additional mass gathering increased the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in affected counties by 13 percent.
Since late 2019, Covid-19 has devastated the global economy, with indirect implications for the environment. As governments’ prioritized health and implemented measures such as isolation, the closure of non-essential businesses and social distancing, many workers lost their jobs, were furloughed, or started working from home. Consequently, the world of work has drastically transformed and this period is likely to have major implications for mobility, transportation and the environment. We have estimated the variability of people to engage in remote work and social distancing using O*NET data and Irish Census data. We show that while those who commute by car have a relatively high potential for remote work, they are less likely to be able to engage in social distancing in their workplace. While this may be negative for employment prospects in the short run, this dynamic has the potential for positive environmental implications in the short and long run.
We apply the SIR-macro model proposed by Eichenbaum et al. (2020) in its complete version to comparatively study the interaction between economic decisions and COVID-19 epidemics in five different Brazilian states: São Paulo (SP), Amazonas (AM), Ceará (CE), Rio de Janeiro (RJ) and Pernambuco (PE). Our objective is to analyze qualitatively how the main intrinsic differences of each of these states can affect the epidemic dynamics and its consequences. For this purpose, we compute and compare the model for each of the states, both in competitive equilibrium and under optimal containment policy adoption, and analyze the implications of optimal policy adoption. We conclude that the intrinsic characteristics of the five different states imply relevant differences in the general dynamics of the epidemic, in the optimal containment policies, in the effect of the adoption of these policies and the severity of the economic recessions. Our study can serve as an alert for policymakers of countries of huge dimensions and interstate heterogeneity as Brazil for the necessity of discriminating policies by states or regions instead of adopting a single unified policy for the whole country.
This paper uses a macroeconomic model to analyse the transmission of the COVID19-pandemic and its associated lockdown and quantify the stabilising effects of the economic policy response. Our simulations identify firm liquidity problems as crucial for shock propagation and amplification. We then quantify the effects of short-term work allowances and liquidity guarantees - central policy strategies in the European Union. The measures reduce the output loss of COVID19 and its associated lockdown by about one fourth. However, they cannot prevent a sharp but temporary decline in production.
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Using a large-scale survey of U.S. households during the Covid-19 pandemic, we study how new information about fiscal and monetary policy responses to the crisis affects households’ expectations. We provide random subsets of participants in the Nielsen Homescan panel with different combinations of information about the severity of the pandemic, recent actions by the Federal Reserve, stimulus measures, as well as recommendations from health officials. This experiment allows us to assess to what extent these policy announcements alter the beliefs and spending plans of households. In short, they do not, contrary to the powerful effects they have in standard macroeconomic models.
Liquidity restrictions on investors, like the redemption gates and liquidity fees introduced in the 2016 money market fund (MMF) reform, are meant to improve financial stability during crisis. However, we find evidence that they may have exacerbated the run on prime MMFs during the Covid-19 crisis. Severe outflows from prime MMFs amid frozen short-term funding markets led the Federal Reserve to intervene with the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF). By providing “liquidity of last resort,” the MMLF successfully stopped the run on prime MMFs and gradually stabilized conditions in short-term funding markets.
Covid-19 induced job losses occurred predominantly in industries with intensive worker-client interaction as well as in pink-collar and blue-collar occupations. We study the ability of fiscal policy to stabilize employment by occupation and industry during the Covid-19 crisis. We use a multi-sector, multi-occupation macroeconomic model and investigate different fiscal policy instruments that help the economy recover faster. We show that fiscal stimuli foster job growth for hard-hit pink-collar workers, whereas stimulating blue-collar job creation is more challenging. A cut in labor taxes performs best in stabilizing total employment and the employment composition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over 2 billion people in the world affected by lockdowns. This has significant socioeconomic implications, especially in areas such as crime, where police resources are diverted from crime prevention towards enforcing lockdowns. Also, mobility restrictions imposed by lockdowns might make it harder for criminals to find victims. The net effect of these opposite forces is unknown. This study analyzes the effect of lockdowns on criminal activity in the state of Bihar, India. A sharp regression discontinuity design is implemented harnessing the sudden introduction of a state-wide lockdown and novel high-frequency criminal case data. The results show that lockdown decreases aggregate crime by 44 percent. Negative large effects are observed in diverse types of crimes such as murder (61 percent), theft (63 percent), and crimes against women (64 percent), among others. This seems to be driven by the higher search costs faced by criminals. Finally, by exploiting geographic variation in terms of lockdowns' severity across districts, this study shows that relaxing lockdowns' initial restrictions increase crime, but the increment is lower in less restrictive lockdowns than in restrictive ones. While economically-motivated crimes increased, violent crimes were not impacted. This suggests that the economic downturn produced by the lockdown might be driving these effects. Policy recommendations are discussed.
This paper develops a choice-theoretic equilibrium model of the labor market in the presence of a pandemic. It includes heterogeneity in productivity, age and the ability to work at home. Worker and firm behavior changes in the presence of the virus, which itself has equilibrium consequences for the infection rate. The model is calibrated to the UK and counterfactual lockdown measures are evaluated. We find a different response in both the evolution of the virus and the labor market with different degrees of severity of lockdown. We use these insights to make a labor market policy prescription to be used in conjunction with lockdown measures. Finally we find that, while the pandemic and ensuing policies impact the majority of the population negatively, consistent with recent studies, the costs are not borne equally. While the old face the highest health risks, it is the young low wage workers who suffer the most income and employment risk.
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We document a number of striking features about the initial impact of the pandemic on local commerce across 16 US cities. There are two novel contributions from this analysis: exploration of neighborhood-level effects and shifts between offline and online purchasing channels. In our analysis we use approximately 450 million credit card transactions per month from a rolling sample of 11 million anonymized customers between October 2019 and March 2020. Across the 16 cities we profile, consumers decreased spend on the set of goods and services we define as ``local commerce" by 12.8% between March 2019 and March 2020. Growth in all 16 cities was negative. Consumers shifted a substantial share of local commerce spend online, such that year over-year growth in online spend was small, but positive, at 1.5%. With respect to grocery and pharmacy purchases, online spend grew at least three times as fast as offline spend. Overall spend declines were uniform across neighborhoods of differing median household income, though lower-income neighborhoods experienced the highest proportion of extreme negative declines. We also find evidence that many low-income neighborhoods are increasing spend on online grocery slower than others, but increasing their use of online restaurants the fastest. Consumers in low-income neighborhoods also tend to live farther from the grocery stores at which they shop. Compared to their counterparts in higher-income neighborhoods, consumers in low-income neighborhoods have not been more likely to shop at grocery stores closer to where they live since the onset of the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 crisis, while the world economy suffered the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the reactions of stock markets have raised concerns. Several economists (including some Nobel laureates) have seen these reactions as evidence that stock markets are not fully efficient, while others have emphasized the difficulty of assessing the dramatic flow of information about the pandemic and its economic consequences. In this paper, we assess how stock markets have integrated public information about the COVID-19, the subsequent lockdowns and the policy reactions. Although the COVID-19 shock has been global, not all countries have been impacted in the same way, and they have not reacted in the same way. We take advantage of this strong heterogeneity. We consider a panel of 74 countries with daily information about the health and economic crisis, from January to April 2020. Stock market reaction can be summarized as follows. 1) Stock markets initially ignored the pandemic (until Feb. 21), before reacted strongly to the growing number of infected people (Feb. 23 to Mar. 20), while volatility surged and concerns about the pandemic arose; following the intervention of central banks (Mar. 23 to Apr. 30), however, shareholders no longer seemed troubled by news of the health crisis, as prices rebound all around the world. 2) Country-specific characteristics appear to have had no influence on stock market response. 3) Investors were sensitive to the number of COVID-19 cases in neighbouring and wealthy countries. 4) Credit facilities and government guarantees, lower policy interest rates, and lockdown measures mitigated the decline in domestic stock prices. Overall, these results suggest that stock markets have been less sensitive to each country’ macroeconomic fundamentals prior the crisis, than to their short-term reaction during the crisis. However, our selected variables explain only a small part of the stock market variations, so it is hard to deny that the link between stock price movements and fundamentals have been anything other than loose.
Evidence from past economic crises indicates that recessions often affect men’s and women’s employment differently, with a greater impact on male-dominated sectors. The current COVID-19 crisis presents novel characteristics that have affected economic, health and social phenomena over wide swaths of the economy. Social distancing measures to combat the spread of the virus, such as working from home and school closures, have placed an additional tremendous burden on families. Using new survey data collected in April 2020 from a representative sample of Italian women, we analyse jointly the effect of COVID-19 on the working arrangements, housework and childcare of couples where both partners work. Our results show that most of the additional workload associated to COVID-19 falls on women while childcare activities are more equally shared within the couple than housework activities. According to our empirical estimates, changes to the amount of housework done by women during the emergency do not seem to depend on their partners’ working arrangements. With the exception of those continuing to work at their usual place of work, all of the women surveyed spend more time on housework than before. In contrast, the amount of time men devote to housework does depend on their partners’ working arrangements: men whose partners continue to work at their usual workplace spend more time on housework than before. The link between time devoted to childcare and working arrangements is more symmetric, with both women and men spending less time with their children if they continue to work away from home. For home schooling, too, parents who continue to go to their usual workplace after the lockdown are less likely to spend greater amounts of time with their children than before. Finally, analysis of work-life balance satisfaction shows that working women with children aged 0-5 are those who say they find balancing work and family more difficult during COVID-19. The work-life balance is especially difficult to achieve for those with partners who continue to work outside the home during the emergency.
Using longitudinal microdata for the UK over the period 2009-2020 we control for pre-existing previous trends in mental health in order to isolate and quantify the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mental health in the UK worsened by 8.1% on average as a result of the pandemic and by much more for young adults and for women which are groups that already had lower levels of mental health before Covid-19. Hence inequalities in mental health have been increased by the pandemic. Even larger effects are observed for measures of mental health that capture the number of problems reported or the fraction of the population reporting any frequent or severe problems, which more than doubled.
This paper uses novel and comprehensive data on electronic payments from SIBS, the main provider of point of sale terminals and on-line payments in Portugal, to study the impact of the Great Lockdown on purchases. The data aggregates all individual transactions into monthly observations, by municipality and sector, between 2018 and 2020. We employ a difference-in-differences event study that relies on the assumption that the monthly evolution of purchases in the first four months of 2020 would be parallel to that of the two previous years. We identify a massive causal impact on overall purchases, from a baseline year-on-year monthly growth rate of 10% to a decrease of 45%. The sign and magnitude of the impact varies considerably across sectors. Purchases of essential goods such as supermarkets and groceries increase mildly, contrasting with severe contractions in sectors that were closed by government order or depend heavily on tourism, including the leisure industry and restaurants. We find suggestive evidence of initial stockpiling of goods, postponing of essential expenditures, and rapid recovery of purchases in tech and entertainment, possibly to adapt to the confinement. Transactions with foreign-owned cards cause an even greater negative contraction. We disentangle the total effect into the intensive margin of the average transaction and the extensive margin of the number of transactions. Buyers adjust their shopping strategies in rational ways to minimize public health risks: they go less often to supermarkets and buy more each time, and visit local groceries more.
Reminders to promote social distancing have been ubiquitous throughout the COVID-19 crisis, but little is known about their effectiveness. Existing studies find positive impacts on intentions to comply, but no evidence exists of actual behavioural change. We conduct a randomised controlled trial with a representative sample of Danish residents, who receive different versions of a reminder to stay home as much as possible at the height of the crisis. We measure impacts on both intentions to comply and on actions in the following days (i.e., whether subjects report having stayed home in a follow-up survey). We find that the reminder significantly increases people’s intentions to stay home when it emphasises the consequences of non-compliance for the respondent or his/her family, while it has no impact when the emphasis is on other people or the country as a whole. Changes in intentions, however, translate into weaker changes in actions that are not statistically significant, despite potential concerns of self-reported compliance being overstated. This is consistent with the existence of important intention-to-action gaps. Only people who are in relatively poor health are significantly more likely to stay home after receiving the reminder with an emphasis on personal and family risks. This shows that while reminders may be useful to protect groups at risk by increasing their own compliance with social distancing, such a tool has no significant impact on the behaviour of those who face limited personal risks but could spread the disease.
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We analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and government policies on firms' aid take-up, layoff and furlough decisions using newly collected survey data for 10,642 small, medium and large Danish firms. This is the first representative sample of firms reporting the pandemic's impact on their revenue and labor choices, showing a steep decline in revenue and a strong reported effect of labor aid take-up on lower job separations. First, we document that relative to a normal year, a quarter more firms have experienced revenue declines exceeding 35 percent. Second, we characterize the firms that took up aid and the type of aid package they chose - labor-based aid, fixed cost support or fiscal-based tax delays. Third, we compare their actual layoff and furlough decisions with reported counterfactual decisions in the absence of aid.
We study liquidity conditions in the corporate bond market since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that in mid-March 2020, as selling pressure surged, dealers were wary of accumulating inventory on their balance sheets, perhaps out of concern for violating regulatory requirements. As a result, the cost to investors of trading immediately with a dealer surged. A portion of transactions migrated to a slower, less costly process wherein dealers arranged for trades directly between customers without using their own balance sheet space. Interventions by the Federal Reserve appear to have relaxed balance sheet constraints: soon after they were announced, dealers began absorbing inventory, bid-ask spreads declined, and market liquidity started to improve. Interestingly, liquidity conditions improved for bonds that were eligible for the Fed’s lending/purchase programs and for bonds that were ineligible. Hence, by allowing dealers to unload certain assets from their balance sheet, the Fed’s interventions may have helped dealers to better intermediate a wide variety of assets, including those not directly targeted.
Latin American countries introduced rapid emergency measures to sustain the income of informal workers and their families during shelter-in-place orders to contain COVID-19. The effectiveness of these measures is limited. The coverage and replacement rates of usual labor income are high among the first quintile of the population but fairly low in the second and third quintiles, where a substantial fraction of households are informal and have limited ability to telework. If governments plan to extend lockdown measures or reintroduce them in the future, they might need to consider broader income transfers for the lower-middle class.
We use the synthetic control method to analyze the effect of face masks on the spread of Covid-19 in Germany. Our identification approach exploits regional variation in the point in time when face masks became compulsory. Depending on the region we analyse, we find that face masks reduced the cumulative number of registered Covid-19 cases between 2.3% and 13% over a period of 10 days after they became compulsory. Assessing the credibility of the various estimates, we conclude that face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%.
How do optimal policies to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2 vary across countries? In an influential recent paper, Eichenbaum, Rebelo, and Trabandt (2020) incorporate economic behavior into a standard epidemiological model calibrated to the United States, finding that spontaneous social distancing will fall short of the social optimum without policy intervention. In this paper, we apply and extend their model to explore how optimal policy varies across contexts depending on demography, comorbidities, and health system strength -- which affect the infection fatality rate -- as well as poverty -- which affects agents' willingness to forego current consumption to reduce disease risk. Calibrating the model to Uganda, we calculate an optimal path for a containment policy equivalent to a 4% consumption tax over one year (compared to a 40% tax in the U.S.), which reduces predicted mortality by roughly 5.5% (compared to 28.2% in the U.S.). Notably, the normative predictions of the model constitute poor positive predictions. Actual containment policies in Uganda and many other developing countries with high poverty and favorable demographics have been relatively severe, and have been met with broad public approval despite high economic costs. Within the model, widespread overestimation of the risk of contracting and dying from the disease provides one possible explanation for this pattern.
Many countries are taking measures stopping productive activities to slow down the spread of COVID-19. At times these measures have been criticized as being excessive and too costly. In this paper we make an attempt to understand the optimal response to an infectious disease. We find that the observed policies are very close to a simple welfare maximization problem of a planner who tries to stop the diffusion of the disease. These extreme measures seem optimal in spite of the high output cost that it may have in the short run, and for various curvatures of the welfare function. The desire for cost smoothing makes more likely that either mitigation or no intervention strategies are optimal, but it does not greatly affect the optimal duration and intensity of the quarantines. We then study the possibility of either complementing or substituting the quarantine policy with random testing. We find that testing is a very close substitute of quarantine and can substantially reduce the need for indiscriminate quarantines.
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Since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the relationship between national female leaders and their effectiveness in handling the COVID-crisis has received a lot of media attention. In this paper we scrutinise this association more systematically. We ask if there is a significant and systematic difference by gender of the national leader in the number of COVID-cases and deaths in the first quarter of the pandemic. We also examine differences in policy responses by male vs. female leaders as plausible explanations for the differences in outcomes. Using a constructed dataset for 194 countries, a variety of socio-demographic variables are used to match nearest neighbours. Our findings show that COVID-outcomes are systematically better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive and coordinated policy responses adopted by them. We use insights from behavioural studies and leadership literature to speculate on the sources of these differences, as well as on their implications. Our hope is that this article will serve as a starting point to illuminate the discussion on the influence of national leaders in explaining the differences in country COVID-outcomes.
We estimate the impact of non-pharmacological interventions (NPIs) on COVID-19 deaths in Scandinavia. We exploit policy variation between Denmark and Norway on the one hand and Sweden on the other. The former deployed relatively more stringent lockdowns, the latter did not. Our difference-in-differences models show that stricter lockdown policies are associated with fewer COVID-19 deaths.
This paper derives a Model-Inferred DIStancing (MIDIS) measure using an extended version of the Susceptible-Exposed-Infected-Recovered-Deceased (SEIRD) framework. The paper argues that, when a disease has an incubation period, explicitly accounting for the exposed compartment is necessary in this class of epidemiological models. An important advantage of the proposed identification strategy lies in its ease to put into practice by other researchers because it employs a relatively simple model and readily available data. When MIDIS is taken to data, results exhibit cross-country and over-time heterogeneity in social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, MIDIS is highly correlated with the mobility data, and it embeds both governmental and behavioral responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, as an application, the paper uses MIDIS to explain output losses experienced during the pandemic, and there exists a robust positive correlation between the two|with sizable economic effects.
We nowcast the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures in the UK and then analyse the distributional and budgetary effects of the estimated individual income shocks, distinguishing between the effects of automatic stabilisers and those of the emergency policy responses. Under conservative assumptions about the exit strategy and recovery phase, we predict that the rescue package will increase the cost of the crisis for the public budget by an additional £26 billion, totalling over £60 billion. However, it will allow to contain the reduction in the average household disposable income to 1 percentage point, and will reduce poverty rate by 1.1 percentage points (at a constant poverty line), with respect to the pre-Covid situation. We also show that this progressive effect is due to the increased generosity of Universal Credit, which accounts for only 20% of the cost of the rescue package.
Countries across the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with what might well be the set of biggest state-led mobility and activity restrictions in the history of mankind. But how effective were these measures across countries? Compared to multiple recent studies that document an association between such restrictions and the control of the contagion, we use an instrumental variable approach to estimate the causal effect of these restrictions on mobility, and the growth rate of confirmed cases and deaths attributed to COVID-19. Using the level of stringency in the rest of the world to predict the level of stringency of the restriction measures in a country, we show while stricter contemporaneous measures affected mobility, stringency in seven to fourteen days mattered for containing the contagion. Heterogeneity analysis reveal that even though the restrictions reduced mobility more in relatively less-developed countries, the causal effect of a reduction in mobility was higher in more developed countries. We propose several explanations. Our results highlight the need to complement mobility and activity restrictions with other health and information measures, especially in less-developed countries, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic effectively.
We explore the role of social capital in the spread of the recent Covid-19 pandemic in independent analyses for Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. We exploit within country variation in social capital and Covid-19 cases to show that
high-social-capital areas accumulated between 12% and 32% fewer Covid-19 cases per capita from mid-March until mid-May. Using Italy as a case study, we find that high-social-capital areas exhibit lower excess mortality and a decline in mobility. Our results have important implications for the design of local containment policies in future waves of the pandemic.
Issue : 25
After an initial period of crisis management, governments must consider what measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus to keep in place until a vaccine or reliable therapy arrives. Informing public policy requires understanding not only disease dynamics and social distancing effectiveness, but also economic features to evaluate the costs and benefits of different actions. This study adapts a workhorse epidemiological model to account for both age-dependent risks and job-dependent social distancing measures and costs. Simulations calculate the costs of six different degrees of restrictions, with sensitivity analysis to several uncertain underlying disease parameters. A novel contribution is contrasting private cost-benefit calculations with the external costs and benefits to society as a whole. The least-cost policy likely involves continued isolation of all who can work or study at home, while other workers practice strong social distancing. For the US, this strategy saves on the order of $10 trillion as compared to simply isolating vulnerable individuals. The benefits of requiring other workers to stay at home only outweigh the wage losses if social distancing measures are insufficiently effective. Immunity is a critical parameter and its absence dramatically increases the costs of weak actions. Further research into the nonmonetary costs of isolation would be valuable. The value of the risks a single person can impose on the rest of society by not staying at home can be substantial, generally increases as restrictions loosen, and should be weighed against the private benefits of returning to circulation.
This paper estimates the drop in profits and the equity shortfall triggered by the Covid-19 shock and the subsequent lockdown, using a representative sample of 80,972 Italian firms. We find that a 3-month lockdown entails an aggregate yearly drop in profits of €170 billion, with an implied equity erosion of €117 billion for the whole sample, and €31 billion for firms that became distressed, i.e., ended up with negative book value after the shock. As a consequence of these losses, about 17% of the sample firms, whose employees account for 8.8% of total employment in the sample (about 800,000 employees), become distressed. Small and mediumsized enterprises (SMEs) are affected disproportionately, with 18.1% of small firms, and 14.3% of medium-sized ones becoming distressed, against 6.4% of large firms. The equity shortfall and the extent of distress are concentrated in the Manufacturing and Wholesale Trading sectors and in the North of Italy. Since many firms predicted to become distressed due to the shock had fragile balance sheets even prior to the Covid-19 shock, restoring their equity to their pre-crisis levels may not suffice to ensure their long-term solvency.
We adapt a SEIRD differential model with asymptomatic population and Covid deaths, which we call SEAIRD, to simulate the evolution of COVID-19, and add a control function affecting both the diffusion of the virus and GDP, featuring all direct and indirect containment policies; to model feasibility, the control is assumed to be a piece-wise linear function satisfying additional constraints. We describe the joint dynamics of infection and the economy and discuss the trade-off between production and fatalities. In particular, we carefully study the conditions for the existence of the optimal policy response and its uniqueness. Uniqueness crucially depends on the marginal rate of substitution between the statistical value of a human life and GDP; we show an example with a phase transition: above a certain threshold, there is a unique optimal containment policy; below the threshold, it is optimal to abstain from any containment; and at the threshold itself there are two optimal policies. We then explore and evaluate various profiles of various control policies dependent on a small number of parameters.
We analyze government interventions to support firms facing liquidity needs during a lockdown in a competitive model of financial intermediation. Banks and firms have legacy balance sheets at the lockdown date. Firms' liquidity needs can be financed by banks that are subject to risk-weighted capital requirements and funded with insured deposits. An increase in firms' overall claims to external investors aggravates moral hazard problems and reduces expected output. The government can support firms directly through transfers or indirectly through guarantees to new bank loans or reductions in the capital requirement. As a result of the diversification of idiosyncratic firm risks conducted by banks, a reduction in the capital requirement only creates costs for the government following negative aggregate shocks that lead to banks' failure. A pecking order on the government policies that maximize output as a function of the government's budget is derived. For low budget, a reduction in capital requirements is optimal and is fully transmitted to firms through increases in banks' leverage. For medium budget, the capital requirement reduction becomes slack and needs be combined with transfers to firms or loan guarantees. For high budget, transfers are strictly necessary.
The health, economic and security impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic are playing out in volatile and potentially catastrophic ways, especially in conflict-affected states. The disease arrived in India during a period of heightened public protests, riots and religious polarization. In this paper, I document early evidence of the causal impact of Covid-19 proliferation on conflict risks across Indian districts. I use text-mining of conflict event descriptions to define two new measures of religious and pandemic-related conflict in addition to the standard measures of real-time conflict events provided by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). Event study analysis indicates a sustained decline in conflict after the first Covid-19 case is reported, driven by a decrease in religious conflict and public protests. However, I also document a countervailing increase in the probability of Covid-19 related conflict. Poor districts and districts with low health infrastructure in particular demonstrate an increase in riots. These real-time findings are of first-order importance for policymakers and public administrators straddling a narrowing stringency corridor between maintaining public health and tolerance of containment policies.
We extract aggregate demand and supply shocks for the US economy from real-time survey data on inflation and real GDP growth using a novel identification scheme. Our approach exploits non-Gaussian features of macroeconomic forecast revisions and imposes minimal theoretical assumptions. After verifying that our results for US post-war business cycle fluctuations are largely in line with the prevailing consensus, we proceed to study output and price fluctuations during COVID-19. We attribute two thirds of the decline in 2020:Q1 GDP to a negative shock to aggregate demand. In contrast, regarding the staggeringly large decline in GDP in 2020:Q2, we estimate two thirds of this shock was due to a reduction in aggregate supply. Statistical analysis suggests a slow recovery due to persistent effects of the supply shock, but surveys suggest a somewhat faster rebound with a recovery in aggregate supply leading the way.
How do people balance health/money concerns during a pandemic? And, how does the communication over this trade-off affect individual preferences? We address these questions using a hypothetical field experiment (randomized controlled trial, RCT) involving around 2000 students enrolled in a big university in the south of Italy. We compare four different framings in order to investigate whether a positive and more paternalistic framing which focuses on protective strategies (“safeguard”) induces more conservative preferences than a more “crude” framing which focuses on potential losses (“costs”). We find that paternalistic framing on the health side induces individuals to give greater relevance to the health dimension. The effect is sizeable and stronger among females and altruistic individuals. Moreover, irrespective of the framing, we find a large heterogeneity in student’s preferences over the trade-off. Economics students and students who have directly experienced the economic impact of the pandemic are found to favor polices that take in greater account the economic side of the tradeoff.
The “social distancing” measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 impose economic costs that go beyond the contraction of GDP. Since different occupations are not equally affected, this supply shock may have distributional implications. Here, we evaluate the potential impact of enforced social distancing on wage inequality and poverty across Europe. We compute a Lockdown Working Ability (LWA) index which represents the capacity of individuals to work under a lockdown given their teleworking index −that we obtain for European occupations using 2018 EU-LFS− and whether their occupation is essential or closed. Combining our LWA index and 2018 EU-SILC, we calculate individuals’ potential wage losses under six scenarios of lockdown. The Lockdown Incidence Curves show striking differential wage losses across the distribution, and we consistently find that both poverty and wage inequality rise in all European countries. These changes increase with the duration of the lockdown and vary with the country under consideration. We estimate an increase in the headcount index of 3 percentage points for overall Europe, while the mean loss rate for the poor is 10.3%, using the 2 months lockdown simulation. In the same scenario, inequality measured by the Gini coefficient increases 2.2% in all Europe, but more than 4% in various countries. When we decompose overall inequality in Europe into between- and within-countries components, both elements significantly increase with the lockdown, being the change of the latter more important.
Issue : 24
I calibrate a Multi-Risk SIR model on the covid pandemic to analyze the impact of the age-specific confinement and PCR testing policies on incomes and mortality. Two polar strategies emerge as potentially optimal. The suppression policy would crush the curve by confining 90% of the population for 4 months to eradicate the virus. The flatten-the-curve policy would reduce the confinement to 30% of the population for 5 months, followed by almost one year of free circulation of the virus to attain herd immunity without overwhelming hospitals. Both strategies yield a total cost of around 15% of annual GDP when combining the economic cost of confinement with the value of lives lost. I show that hesitating between the two strategies can have a huge societal cost, in particular if the suppression policy is stopped too early. Because seniors are much more vulnerable, a simple recommendation emerges to shelter them as one deconfines young and middle-aged people in order to build our collective herd immunity. By doing so, one reduces the death toll of the pandemic together with the economic cost of the confinement, and the total cost is divided by a factor 2. I also show that expanding the mass testing capacity to screen people sent back to work has a large benefit under various scenarios. This analysis is highly dependent upon deeply uncertain epidemiologic, sociological, economic and ethical parameters.
Many countries around the world have implemented stringent containment measures to halt the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and limit the number of fatalities. Though crucial to slow the course of the pandemic, these measures entail large short-term economic costs. This paper tries to quantify these effects using daily data on real-time containment measures implemented by countries around the world as well as daily indicators of economic activity such as Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions, international and domestic flights, energy consumption, maritime trade, and retail mobility indices. Results suggest that containment measures have had, on average, a very large impact on economic activity—equivalent to a loss of about 15 percent in industrial production over a 30-day period following the implementation of containment measures. Using a novel database on discretionary fiscal and monetary policy measures implemented by countries in response to the crisis, we find that these policy measures have been effective in mitigating some of these costs. Finally, we find that among different types of containment measures, while stay-at-home requirements and workplace closures are the most effective in curbing both infections and deaths, they are also those associated with the largest economic costs.
We test whether earlier social distancing affects the progression of a local COVID-19 outbreak. We exploit county-level rainfall on the last weekend before statewide lockdown. After controlling for historical rainfall, temperature, and state fixed-effects, current rainfall is a plausibly exogenous instrument for social distancing. Early distancing causes a reduction in cases and deaths that persists for weeks. The effect is driven by a reduction in the chance of a very large outbreak. The result suggests early distancing may have sizable returns, and that random events early in an outbreak can have persistent effects on its course.
We analyse how air traffic across countries contributed to the propagation of COVID-19 by fitting a Spatial Durbin-Watson model adapted to local projections. Such a model explicitly accounts for spatial dependence of observations and allows to track the effect of domestic and foreign new infections over time. Our estimates show that air travel-induced cases amount to 8-9% of all confirmed cases on average, and that these infections from abroad came in two waves: in mid-March and the fourth week of March. We also evaluate that air travel restrictions had a marked impact in reducing the progression of the pandemic from April onward. Closing all air traffic 4 weeks earlier could have prevented between 7,000 and 7,800 deaths. Based on standard values of a statistical life and on the latest estimates of GDP loss induced by air travel restrictions, we conclude that, just as social distancing, spatial distancing might be a cost-effective way to tackle COVID-19 in the short run.
Time series models are developed for predicting future values of a variable which when cumulated is subject to an unknown saturation level. Such models are relevant for many disciplines, but here attention is focussed on the spread of epidemics and the applications are for coronavirus. The time series models are relatively simple but are such that their specification can be assessed by standard statistical test procedures. In the generalized logistic class of models, the logarithm of the growth rate of the cumulative series depends on a time trend. Allowing this trend to be time-varying introduces further flexibility and enables the effects of changes in policy to be tracked and evaluated.
Stay-at-home orders (SAHOs) have been implemented in most U.S. states to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This paper quantifies the short-run impact of these containment policies on search behavior and labor demand for child care. The child care market may be particularly vulnerable to a SAHO-type policy shock, given that many providers are liquidity-constrained. Using plausibly exogenous variation from the staggered adoption of SAHOs across states, we find that online job postings for early care and education teachers declined by 13% after enactment. This effect is driven exclusively by private-sector services. Indeed, hiring by public programs like Head Start and pre-kindergarten has not been influenced by SAHOs. In addition, we find little evidence that child care search behavior among households has been altered. Because forced supply-side changes appear to be at play, our results suggest that households may not be well-equipped to insure against the rapid transition to the production of child care. We discuss the implications of these results for child development and parental employment decisions.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is inevitably affecting remittance-dependent countries through economic downturns in the destination countries, and restrictions on travel and sending remittances to their home country. This paper explores the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the welfare of remittance-dependent households using a dataset collected in heavily remittance-dependent regions in the Philippines prior to the outbreak. First, the empirical model pins down the relationship between the macroeconomic performance of the destination countries, the amount of remittances, and the welfare of households. Second, we use the difference in the IMF’s forecasts for the 2020 GDP before and after the COVID-19 crisis to project potential impacts on households caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our projection shows that remittance inflow will decrease by 23-32% and household spending per capita will decline by 2.2-3.3% in one year as a result of the pandemic.
We evaluate the effects of containment measures on flattening the COVID-19 infection curve in Germany. Constructing a regional daily panel dataset, we make use of the fact that different containment measures were implemented by the German state governments at different times and not uniformly nationwide. The results show that the cancellation of mass events, school and childcare closures and curfews played an important role, just as further unobserved factors beyond government interventions. In contrast, we find only limited evidence for additional effects of the closures of service sectors in public life.
Issue : 23
A key question is how countries can gradually exit the covid-19 lockdown in order to re-open their economies and mitigate the huge economic costs that the lockdown is imposing. Answering this question is the first step of the analysis proposed in this paper. Using a benchmark country known to be severely hit by the virus (Belgium), it compares the epidemiological effects of different stereotyped exit strategies. It concludes that, in order to avoid a rebound in infections and follow a relatively quick path toward ending the epidemic, the re-opening of the economy and the society must be very cautious and strict measures of social distancing and an ambitious and effective testing programme must be implemented. The second step, and main point of the paper, consists of exploring the role of a country's culture, more particularly the prevailing contact habits and norms. This is done by substituting the pattern of inter-individual interactions of two other countries for the pattern observed in the benchmark country. The results are striking: differences in the way people interact, and more specifically the frequencies of their contacts within and between age groups, seem to (partly) explain variations in the incidence of the virus and performances in battling against it. More precisely, if Belgium inherited the interaction pattern of Germany when exiting the lockdown, it could achieve the objective of (partial) re-opening of the economy with more moderate policies than the ones it actually needs. And, conversely, if it inherited the social structure of Italy, it would have to take even more stringent measures lest the cost to bear as a result of economic re-opening should be (much) heavier. In addition to differences in the effectiveness of public health policies and in the genetic make-up of population groups, cultural specificities thus appear to play a significant role in explaining international and inter-regional variations in the incidence of the virus and the impact of public interventions.
The COVID19 pandemic has caused shocks to the demand for home childcare (with the closure of schools and nurseries) and the supply of home childcare (with many people not working). We collect real-time data on daily lives to document that UK families with young children have been doing the equivalent of a working week in childcare. Women have been doing the greater share, but overall, the gender childcare gap (the difference between the share of childcare done by women and the share done by men) for the additional, post-COVID19 hours is smaller than that for the allocation of pre-COVID19 childcare. However, the amount of additional childcare provided by men is very sensitive to their employment – the allocation has become more equal in households where men are working from home and where they have been furloughed/ lost their job. There are likely to be long-term implications from these changes – potentially negative for the careers of parents of young children; but also, more positively for some families, for sharing the burden of childcare more equally in the future.
We analyse the economics and epidemiology of different scenarios for a phased restart of the UK economy. Our economic model is designed to address the unique features of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing measures affect both supply and demand, and input-output constraints play a key role in restricting economic output. Standard models for production functions are not adequate to model the short-term effects of lockdown. A survey of industry analysts conducted by IHS Markit allows us to evaluate which inputs for each industry are absolutely necessary for production over a two month period. Our model also includes inventory dynamics and feedback between unemployment and consumption. We demonstrate that economic outcomes are very sensitive to the choice of production function, show how supply constraints cause strong network effects, and find some counter-intuitive effects, such as that reopening only a few industries can actually lower aggregate output. Occupation-specific data and contact surveys allow us to estimate how different industries affect the transmission rate of the disease. We investigate six different re-opening scenarios, presenting our best estimates for the increase in R0 and the increase in GDP. Our results suggest that there is a reasonable compromise that yields a relatively small increase in R0 and delivers a substantial boost in economic output. This corresponds to a situation in which all non-consumer facing industries reopen, schools are open only for workers who need childcare, and everyone who can work from home continues to work from home.
This paper shows that the optimal combination of social distancing and case detection allows for complete and efficient eradication of COVID-19. The first contribution is theoretical. I show that the optimal suppression-policy is a simple function of observable sufficient-statistics, making it easily implementable. I prove that optimal social distancing is the strongest when an outbreak is detected, and then gradually relaxed. If case detection is sufficiently efficient, social distancing vanishes wholly and quickly; otherwise, it needs to stay in place until a vaccine arrives. The second contribution is quantitative. I find that, if Italy adopts digital contact tracing, total suppression costs only 0.8% of annual GDP. In sharp contrast, under the current detection efficiency, the total cost of suppression amounts to at least 14% of GDP.
We survey a representative sample of US households to study how exposur to the Covid-19 stock market crash affects expectations and planned behavior. Wealth shocks are associated with upward adjustments of expectations about retirement age, desired working hours, and household debt, but have only small effects on expected spending. We provide correlational and experimental evidence that beliefs about the duration of the stock market recovery shape households' expectations about their own wealth and their planned investment decisions and labor market activity. Our findings shed light on the implications of household exposure to stock market crashes for expectation formation.
We develop a multiple-events model and exploit within and between country variation in the timing, type and level of intensity of various public policies to study their dynamic effects on the daily incidence of COVID-19 and on population mobility patterns across 135 countries. We remove concurrent policy bias by taking into account the contemporaneous presence of multiple interventions. The main result of the paper is that cancelling public events and imposing restrictions on private gatherings followed by school closures have quantitatively the most pronounced effects on reducing the daily incidence of COVID-19. They are followed by workplace as well as stay-at-home requirements, whose statistical significance and levels of effect are not as pronounced. Instead, we find no effects for international travel controls, public transport closures and restrictions on movements across cities and regions. We establish that these findings are mediated by their effect on population mobility patterns in a manner consistent with time-use and epidemiological factors.
During the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan between March and April 2020, Internet surveys were conducted to construct panel data to investigate changes at the individual level regarding preventive behaviors and mental conditions by surveying the same respondents at different times. Specifically, the difference-in-difference (DID) method was used to explore the impact of the COVID-19 state of emergency declared by the government. Key findings were: (1) the declaration led people to stay home, while also generating anger, fear, and anxiety. (2) The effect of the declaration on the promotion of preventive behaviors was larger than the detrimental effect on mental conditions. (3) Overall, the effect on women was larger than that on men.
We analyse whether the various types of lockdowns implemented around the world mitigated the surge in infections and reduced mortality related to the covid-19, and whether their effectiveness differed in developing vs. developed countries. Our data cover 184 countries from December 31st 2019 to May 4th 2020, and identifies when lockdowns were adopted, along with confirmed cases and deaths. We find that reducing movements within countries has been effective in developed economies -averting about 650,000 deaths- but not in developing ones, that countries that acted fast fared better, and that closing borders has had no appreciable effect, even after fifty-days.
Issue : 22
The COVID-19 pandemic has already led to dramatic policy responses in most advanced economies, and in particular sustained lockdowns matched with sizable transfers to much of the workforce. This paper provides a preliminary quantitative analysis of how aggregate policy responses should differ in developing countries. To do so we build an incomplete-markets macroeconomic model with epidemiological dynamics that features several of the main economic and demographic distinctions between advanced and developing economies relevant for the pandemic. We focus in particular on differences in population structure, fiscal capacity, healthcare capacity, the prevalence of ‘hand-to-mouth’ households, and the size of the informal sector. The model predicts that blanket lockdowns are generally less effective in developing countries at reducing the welfare costs of the pandemic, saving fewer lives per unit of lost GDP. Age-specific lockdown policies, on the other hand, may be even more potent in developing countries, saving more lives per unit of lost output than in advanced economies.
I use simple correlations and regression analysis to study how the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and the number of deaths with Covid-19 per 100,000 people is related with the socioeconomic characteristics of local areas in England and Wales. I find that local areas that have larger households, worse levels of self-reported health and a larger fraction of people using public transport have more Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people. For mortality, household size and use of public transport are less important, but there is a clear relation with age, ethnicity and self-reported health. Local areas with an older population, a larger share of black or Asian population and worse levels of self-reported health have more Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people. The relation between self-reported health and infections and mortality suggests that encouraging a healthy lifestyle can help prevent the spread of infection and reduce mortality. Also, as many countries now begin to relax lockdown measures, policymakers should pay particular attention to reducing the risk of infection in public transport.
Policy makers responding to COVID-19 need to know people's relative valuation of health over wealth. Loosening and tightening lockdowns moves a society along a (perceived) health-wealth trade-off and the associated changes have to accord with the public's relative valuation of health and wealth for maximum compliance. In our survey experiment (N=4,618), we randomize information provision on economic and health costs to assess public preferences over this trade-off in the UK and the US. People strongly prioritize health over wealth, but the treatment effects suggest these priorities will change as experience of COVID-19 deaths and income losses evolves.
Information also has heterogeneous/polarizing effects. These results encourage policy caution. Individual differences in health-wealth valuation highlight this study's importance because they map onto compliance with current lockdown measures.
The COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing as well as stay-at-home orders can directly affect mental health and quality of life. In this ongoing project, we analyze rich data from Telefonseelsorge, the largest German emergency helpline service, to better understand the effect of the pandemic and of local lockdown measures on mental health–related helpline contacts. First, looking at Germany–wide changes, we find that overall helpline contacts increase by around 25% in the first week of the lockdown and slowly decrease again after the third lockdown week. Our results suggest that the increase is not driven by financial worries or fear of the virus itself, but reflects heightened loneliness, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Second, we exploit spatial variation in policies among German federal states to assess whether the effect depends on the stringency of local measures. Preliminary evidence suggests that the average effect is more pronounced in states that implemented stricter measures.
This paper examines the impact of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic on China's trade. Using quarterly transaction-level trade data of all Chinese firms, we find that firms in regions with local transmission of SARS experienced lower import and export growth at both the intensive and extensive margins, compared to those in the unaffected regions. The affected firms' trade growth remained lower two years after SARS. Products that are more capital-intensive, skill-intensive, upstream in the supply chains, and differentiated experienced a smaller export decline but a stronger recovery. Small exporters were more likely to exit, slowing down trade recovery.
The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl is commonly claimed to be ground zero for the diffusion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across Germany. Drawing on data for 401 German counties, we find that conditional on geographical latitude and testing behavior by health authorities, road distance to Ischgl is indeed an important predictor of infection cases, but — in line with expectations — not of fatality rates. Were all German counties located as far from Ischgl as the most distant county of Vorpommern-Rügen, Germany would have seen about 48% fewer COVID-19 cases. A simple diffusion model predicts that the absolute value of the distance-to-Ischgl elasticity should fall over time when inter- and intra-county mobility are unrestricted. We test this hypothesis and conclude that the German lockdown measures have halted the spread of the virus.
This paper examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial real estate prices. We construct a novel measure of listed commercial real estate (CRE) portfolios’ exposure to the growth in COVID-19 cases using a large, granular sample of firms’ individual commercial property holdings. We document a negative relationship between this geographically weighted case growth and risk-adjusted returns. However, there is substantial variation across property types: the retail and hospitality sectors react the most negatively while technology sector reacts positively to the exposure of their portfolios to growth in COVID-19 cases. After conditioning on the property type focus of a firm, days since the beginning of the portfolio’s exposure to the outbreak, the weighted-average population density of the counties in which the portfolio manager is invested, and the extent to which the portfolio is concentrated by property type and geography, other firm characteristics have little effect on the negative stock price impact of the pandemic. Despite negative short-term market reactions, our findings suggest that the sensitivity of CRE returns to increases in reported COVID-19 cases is reduced after announcements of stay-at home orders and state of emergency declarations. We argue that the effects of COVID-19 that we observe in highly liquid stock markets are indicative of pricing effects occurring in private CRE markets.
Issue : 21
This paper investigates whether security markets price the effect of social distancing on firms’ operations. We document that firms that are more resilient to social distancing significantly outperformed those with lower resilience during the COVID-19 outbreak, even after controlling for the standard risk factors. Similar cross-sectional return differentials already emerged before the COVID-19 crisis: the 2014-19 cumulative return differential between more and less resilient firms is of similar size as during the outbreak, suggesting growing awareness of pandemic risk well in advance of its materialization. Finally, we use stock option prices to infer the market’s return expectations after the onset of the pandemic: even at a two-year horizon, stocks of more pandemic-resilient firms are expected to yield significantly lower returns than less resilient ones, reflecting their lower exposure to disaster risk. Hence, going forward, markets appear to price exposure to a new risk factor, namely, pandemic risk.
We use a repeated large-scale survey of households in the Nielsen Homescan panel to characterize how labor markets are being affected by the covid-19 pandemic. We document several facts. First, job loss has been significantly larger than implied by new unemployment claims: we estimate 20 million lost jobs by April 8th, far more than jobs lost over the entire Great Recession. Second, many of those losing jobs are not actively looking to find new ones. As a result, we estimate the rise in the unemployment rate over the corresponding period to be surprisingly small, only about 2 percentage points. Third, participation in the labor force has declined by 7 percentage points, an unparalleled fall that dwarfs the three percentage point cumulative decline that occurred from 2008 to 2016. Early retirement almost fully explains the drop in labor force participation both for those survey participants previously employed and those previously looking for work. We find increases in the fraction of those being retired across the whole age distribution with women and blacks driving a large part of the accelerated retirement.
This paper studies the role of international trade of essential goods during a pandemic. We consider a multi-country, multi-sector model with essential and non-essential goods. Essential goods provide utility relative to a reference consumption level, and a pandemic consists of an increase in this reference level. Each country produces domestic varieties of both types of goods using capital and labor subject to sectoral adjustment costs, and all varieties are traded internationally subject to trade barriers. We study the role of international trade of essential goods in mitigating or amplifying the impact of a pandemic. We find that the effects depend crucially on the countries' trade imbalances in essential goods. Net importers of these goods are relatively worse off during a pandemic than net exporters. The welfare losses of net importers are lower in a world with high trade barriers, while the reverse is the case for net exporters. Yet, once a pandemic arrives, net exporters of essential goods benefit from an increase in trade barriers, while net importers benefit from a decrease in them. These findings are consistent with preliminary evidence on changes in trade barriers across countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do individuals adjust their consumption in response to information disseminated through peers and the social network? Using United States data on consumption, coupled with geographic friendship ties to measure social connectivity, this paper quantifies the role of social networks as a propagation mechanism for understanding aggregate fluctuations in consumption. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a source of variation, we find that a 10\% rise in cases and deaths in counties connected through the social network is associated with a 0.64\% and 0.33\% decline in consumption expenditures--roughly three to seven times as large as the direct effects of local cases or deaths. Counties more socially connected to epicenter countries of the pandemic also saw a bigger drop in consumption. These effects are concentrated among consumer goods and services that rely more on social-contact, suggesting that individuals incorporate the experiences from their social network to inform their own consumption choices. We are working on incorporating this microeconomic evidence into a heterogeneous agent model and social interaction to study the aggregate demand implications.
In March of 2020, banks faced the largest increase in liquidity demands ever observed. Firms drew funds on a massive scale from pre-existing credit lines and loan commitments in anticipation of cash flow disruptions from the economic shutdown designed to contain the COVID-19 crisis. The increase in liquidity demands was concentrated at the largest banks, who serve the largest firms. Pre-crisis financial condition did not limit banks’ liquidity supply. Coincident inflows of funds to banks from both the Federal Reserve’s liquidity injection programs and from depositors, along with strong pre-shock bank capital, explain why banks were able to accommodate these liquidity demands.
We analyze how to optimally engage in social distancing (SD) in order to minimize the spread of an infectious disease. We identify conditions under which the optimal policy is single-peaked, i.e., first engages in increasingly more social distancing and subsequently decreases its intensity. We show that the optimal policy might delay measures that decrease the transmission rate substantially to create “herd-immunity” and that engaging in social distancing sub-optimally early can increase the number of fatalities. Finally, we find that optimal social distancing can be an effective measure in substantially reducing the death rate of a disease.
Issue : 20
We study how the differential timing of local lockdowns due to COVID-19 causally affects households’ spending and macroeconomic expectations at the local level using several waves of a customized survey with more than 10,000 respondents. About 50% of survey participants report income and wealth losses due to the corona virus, with the average losses being $5,293 and $33,482 respectively. Aggregate consumer spending dropped by 31 log percentage points with the largest drops in travel and clothing. We find that households living in counties that went into lockdown earlier expect the unemployment rate over the next twelve months to be 13 percentage points higher and continue to expect higher unemployment at horizons of three to five years. They also expect lower future inflation, report higher uncertainty, expect lower mortgage rates for up to 10 years, and have moved out of foreign stocks into liquid forms of savings. The imposition of lockdowns can account for much of the decline in employment in recent months as well as declines in consumer spending. While lockdowns have pronounced effects on local economic conditions and households’ expectations, they have little impact on approval ratings of Congress, the Fed, or the Treasury but lead to declines in the approval of the President.
In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for comfort and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Using daily data on Google searches for 95 countries, this research demonstrates that the COVID-19 crisis has increased Google searches for prayer (relative to all Google searches) to the highest level ever recorded. More than half of the world population had prayed to end the coronavirus. The rise amounts to 50% of the previous level of prayer searches or a quarter of the fall in Google searches for flights, which dropped dramatically due to the closure of most international air transport. Prayer searches rose at all levels of income, inequality, and insecurity, but not for the 10% least religious countries. The increase is not merely a substitute for services in the physical churches that closed down to limit the spread of the virus. Instead, the rise is due to an intensified demand for religion: We pray to cope with adversity.
This paper assesses the differential impacts on mental health of distinct public policy lockdown responses to the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic. It develops novel narrative economics of language approach born at the intersection of cultural economics, big data and narrative economic analysis. This approach is reliant on the study of language to extract cultural and behavioural insights with socioeconomic relevance. We sourced Google trend data for seed keywords, death and suicide, and employed difference-in-differences and regression discontinuity estimation techniques to conduct two investigations. First, we compared the amount of emotional distress experienced by British and Italian residents before and after the implementation of lockdown policies. Second, we extended our analysis to include a country that did not impose a lockdown, Sweden, as a control, which facilitated a natural quasi-experiment. Our main findings are that the lockdown policy affected public mental health, yet the dominant factor for public mental health was the cognitive bias of salient public death toll statistics. Countries had a pre-existing culturally relative disposition towards death-related anxiety, and the magnitude of their response to the pandemic varies in a cultural hysteresis manner. Searches for the keyword suicide decreased during the pandemic, while the interest in trivia remained unaffected, as indicated through searches for the keyword chair. Significant spillovers from one ” specific national lockdown public policies to another country’s mental health are identified.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, our perception of the world significantly changed. In this paper we show the results of 3 studies that collectively illustrate a novel mechanism through which this has happened. We document the effect of social distancing on our perceptions, through the moderating effect of ambiguity aversion. In experiment 1 we show that ambiguity aversion predicts illusory pattern perception, defined as identifying faces in white noise pictures. In experiment 2 we show that ambiguity aversion also predicts higher cognitive level illusory pattern perception, defined as belief in conspiracy theories. Experiment 3 shows, through two uniquely timed questionnaires, that ambiguity aversion increases significantly from before to after the lockdown (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) for a sample of over 300 subjects. Remarkably, this difference in ambiguity aversion is no longer significant when we control for the drop in regular social contact over this period.
We measure labor demand and supply shocks at the sector level around the Covid-19 outbreak, by estimating a Bayesian structural vector autoregression on monthly statistics of hours worked and real wages and applying the methodology proposed by Baumeister and Hamilton (2015). Our estimates suggest that two-thirds of the 16.24 percentage point drop in the growth rate of hours worked in April 2020 are attributable to supply. Most sectors were subject to historically large negative labor supply and demand shocks in March and April 2020, but there is substantial heterogeneity in the size of these shocks across sectors. Leisure and Hospitality was particularly affected. We find positive labor demand shocks for sectors such as Retail Trade, and Information in March 2020 that vanish in April 2020. We show that our estimates of supply shocks are correlated with sectoral measures of telework.
Issue : 19
Drastic public health measures such as social distancing or lockdowns can reduce the loss of human life by keeping the number of infected individuals from exceeding the capacity of the health care system but are often criticized because of the social and economic costs they entail. We question this view by combining an epidemiological model, calibrated to capture the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with a multisector model, designed to capture key characteristics of the U.S. Input Output Tables. Our two-sector model features a core sector that produces intermediate inputs not easily replaced by inputs from the other sector, subject to minimum-scale requirements. We show that, by affecting workers in this core sector, the high peak of an infection not mitigated by social distancing may cause very large upfront economic costs in terms of output, consumption and investment. Social distancing measures can reduce these costs, especially if skewed towards non-core industries and occupations with tasks that can be performed from home, helping to smooth the surge in infections among workers in the core sector.
Since the first outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in late December 2019, the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has spread to over 200 countries/territories globally. In response, many countries have implemented several containment measures to halt the spread of the virus and limit the number of fatalities. It remains unclear the extent to which these unprecedented measures have been successful. The paper examines this question using daily data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as on real-time containment measures implemented by countries around the world. Results suggest that containment measures have been, on average, very effective in flattening the “pandemic curve” and reducing the number of fatalities. These effects have been stronger in countries where containment measures have been implemented faster and have resulted in less mobility—de facto, more social distancing—and in those with lower temperatures, lower population density, a larger share of an elderly population and stronger health systems. Among different types of containment measures, stay-at-home orders seems to have been more effective in reducing the number of deaths. However, these adjustments benefitted mostly highly educated workers and white collars. Overall, low-income individuals faced worse labor market outcomes and suffered higher psychological costs.
As COVID-19 has spread across the globe, several observers noticed that countries still administering an old vaccine against tuberculosis–the BCG vaccine–have had fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the early stages of the outbreak. This paper uses a geographic regression discontinuity analysis to study whether and how COVID-19 prevalence changes discontinuously at the old border between West Germany and East Germany. The border used to separate two countries with very different vaccination policies during the Cold War era. We provide formal evidence that there is indeed a sizable discontinuity in COVID-19 cases at the border. However, we also find that the difference in novel coronavirus prevalence is uniform across age groups and show that this discontinuity disappears when commuter flows and demographics are accounted for. These findings are not in line with the BCG hypothesis. We then offer an alternative explanation for the East-West divide. We simulate a canonical SIR model of the epidemic in each German county, allowing infections to spread along commuting patterns. We find that in the simulated data, the number of cases also discontinuously declines as one crosses from west to east over the former border.