Discussion paper

DP16227 The Intergenerational Mortality Tradeoff of COVID-19 Lockdown Policies

In lower-income countries, the economic contractions that accompany lockdowns tocontain the spread of COVID-19 can increase child mortality, counteracting the mortality reductions achieved by the lockdown. To formalize and quantify this effect, we build a macro-susceptible-infected-recovered model that features heterogeneous agents and a country-group-specific relationship between economic downturns and child mortality, and calibrate it to data for 85 countries across all income levels. We find that in low-income countries, a lockdown can potentially lead to 1.76 children’s lives lost due to the economic contraction per COVID-19 fatality averted. The ratio stands at 0.59 and 0.06 in lower-middle and upper-middle income countries, respectively. As a result, in some countries lockdowns actually can produce net increases in mortality. The optimal lockdowns are shorter and milder in poorer countries than in rich ones, and never produce a net mortality increase.


Ma, L, G Shapira, D de Walque, Q Do, J Friedman and A Levchenko (2022), ‘DP16227 The Intergenerational Mortality Tradeoff of COVID-19 Lockdown Policies‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16227. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16227