VoxEU & CEPR Coverage of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic

D. Mark Anderson, Ron Diris, Raymond Montizaan, Daniel I. Rees, 28 January 2022

There is evidence that physicians suffer disproportionately from substance use disorders, but no clear understanding of whether the phenomenon is causal. This column uses data from Dutch medical school applicants to examine the effects of becoming a physician on prescription drug use. Leveraging variation from lottery outcomes that determine admission into medical schools, it finds that the choice to become a physician – as opposed to individual-level traits such as personality, intelligence, or perseverance – increases the use of antidepressants, opioids, anxiolytics, and sedatives, especially for women.

Guido Alfani, Victoria Gierok, Felix Schaff, 28 January 2022

New evidence is transforming the way we look at long-term trends in economic inequality. This column reconstructs wealth inequality in the German area over five centuries. The significant declines in inequality triggered by the Black Death and again by the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–1648 and the plague that followed provide strong support for the potential levelling effects of catastrophes. However, the much lower mortality rate for Covid-19 suggests we can expect inequality to increase, not to decline, as a consequence of the pandemic.

Nathan Nunn, Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, Léonard Wantchékon, 27 January 2022

Since the 2000s, a vibrant stream of research on African political economy and economic history has emerged that has produced a plethora of insights and has uncovered the shadow that Africa’s past casts on contemporary economic, social, and political development. This column introduces a free online course on “African History through the Lens of Economics”, which will bring together the considerable volume of work in the economics literature of the past decades. The course is open to students with a background and interest in economics, political science, history, cultural anthropology, and psychology.

M. Ayhan Kose, Franziska Ohnsorge, Shu Yu, 27 January 2022

Informality compounded the damage of the Covid-19 pandemic in emerging market and developing economies, and it is now threatening to hold back the recovery. This column argues that policymakers need to employ innovative measures, tailored to country circumstances, to help the informal sector cope with the consequences of the pandemic. Policies to better reach informal workers, such as online platforms and databases, as well as progress in digitalisation and financial inclusion can all help support vulnerable populations during times of crisis. 

Jun Arima, 26 January 2022

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) concluded ‘successfully’ with the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact. The agreement was the first to target specific energy sources. This column reviews the COP26 landscape and the challenges going forward. Developing countries are expected to continue pressuring industrialised ones to achieve net zero sooner and raise nationally determined contributions. The lack of space for realistic international discussions on energy security may limit the effectiveness of pushing the COP26 standards.

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