VoxEU & CEPR Coverage of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic

Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 23 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a sudden, massive shift around the world to working from home. While there is great concern how this will affect inequality and how the economy will adjust, the shift has also saved billions of hours of commuting time in the US alone. Drawing on original surveys, this column estimates that the shift to working from home lowers commuting time among Americans by more than 60 million hours per workday. Americans devote about a third of the time savings to their primary jobs and about 60% to other work activities, including household chores and childcare. The allocation of time savings differs substantially by education group and between persons with and without children at home.

David Clayton, David Higgins, 23 September 2020

After Brexit, the UK government will enjoy greater freedom to encourage domestic consumers to “Buy British”. But as this column explains, attempts by successive UK governments in the 1970s and early 1980s to initiate such import substitution policies were fraught with economic and legal difficulties. Indeed, accelerating globalisation and the rapid growth of imports in intermediate products for assembly into ‘British’ goods raise significant problems in defining a ‘national’ product – and the growth of tradable services (such as insurance, education and healthcare) presents an even more intractable problem.

Josef Bajzík, Tomas Havranek, Zuzana Irsova, Jiri Schwarz, 23 September 2020

A key parameter informing policy models in international economics is the elasticity of substitution between domestic and foreign goods, also known as the Armington elasticity. Yet elasticity estimates have varied widely since Armington’s seminal 1969 contribution. This column considers 3,524 previous estimates and discusses how these historical analyses can be corrected for various biases. The previous research implies that the elasticity lies in the range 2.5-5.1 with a median of 3.8. In a simple model this translates to a trade cost elasticity of 2.8. 

Caroline Le Pennec, Vincent Pons, Vestal McIntyre, 22 September 2020

The first televised debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will take place next week. But while it is being portrayed as a make-or-break moment in the campaign, this column argues that TV debates between candidates do not substantially impact vote choice. Instead, a campaign wishing to sway last-minute voters might do better by focusing on individual outreach – a challenging prospect, given the Covid-19 pandemic.

Titan Alon, Matthias Doepke, Jane Olmstead-Rumsey, Michèle Tertilt, 22 September 2020

Unlike any other modern recession, the downturn triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has created larger employment losses for women than for men. Based on data from all US recessions since 1949, this column shows that the 2020 recession deviates most sharply from the historical norm in its disparate gender impact. The fact that job losses are much higher for women not only matters for gender equality, but will also reduce families’ ability to offset income losses, producing a deeper and more persistent recession.

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