Christos Makridis, Jonathan Rothwell, 10 July 2020

There is significant dispersion in beliefs about the pandemic and its economic implications. This column uses new high-frequency and nationally representative data to document the overwhelming importance of political affiliation as a determinant of these beliefs and the adverse effects of partisanship on local economic activity. In the US, Republicans are significantly less worried about COVID-19 and less likely to expect a long-term disruption due to the virus. These results suggest that the macroeconomic effects of the pandemic on consumption may depend on behavioural factors, like political affiliation.

Paolo Falco, Sarah Zaccagni, 09 July 2020

Reminders to encourage social distancing have been used widely by the authorities around the world during the crisis. Based on a randomised controlled trial conducted in Denmark, this column shows what types of messages are most (and least) effective in convincing people to stay home. People’s good intentions often do not translate into the desired actions. Reminders significantly increase compliance with social distancing among people in poor health who face the greatest risks.

Jean-Pierre Dube, Andrey Simonov, Szymon Sacher, Shirsho Biswas, 06 July 2020

US televised news networks offer strikingly different coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the exposure risks, and the benefits of social distancing measures recommended by health experts. This column devises an empirical strategy to test for a causal effect of news viewership on compliance with social distancing. It finds a large effect of local Fox News viewership on local compliance, with a persuasion rate of up to 26%. These findings reinforce concerns about the media’s role in sowing distrust in scientific evidence in the determination of public policies.  

Stefan Pollinger, 05 July 2020

Despite diverse and considerable efforts, the pandemic is keeping the world in a state of apprehension and discord. This column argues that eradicating Covid-19 is possible through a combination of case detection and social distancing, which would allow the pandemic to be eliminated at low additional economic and health costs. A simple function of observables, the optimal policy is easily implementable, but it raises important privacy concerns. The time to have a serious political discussion about these concerns has come.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, Dominique van de Walle, 27 June 2020

Recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19 call for social distancing, washing, and access to information and treatment. However, people need to be in household environments that allow them to follow those recommendations. This column examines the relationship between poverty and the adequacy of the home environment. There is a strong wealth effect both within and between countries, where the poor are less likely to have the kind of dwellings and infrastructure to follow WHO recommendations. Complementary policies to address such inadequate home environments are needed.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Timo Mitze, Reinhold Kosfeld, Johannes Rode, Klaus Wälde, 22 June 2020

Confronted with a novel, aggressive coronavirus, Germany implemented measures to reduce its spread since March 2020. Requiring people to wear face masks in public places has, however, been a subject of controversy and isolating the effect of mask-wearing on the spread of COVID-19 is not simple. This column looks at the town of Jena and other German regions that introduced face masks before the rest of the country to see whether the requirement makes a difference in the number of new COVID-19 cases. Requiring face masks to be worn decreases the growth rate of COVID-19 cases by about 40% in Germany.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Sebastian Seitz, Sebastian Siegloch, Michaela Slotwinski, Nils Wehrhöfer, 18 June 2020

In the absence of viable medical responses to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, policymakers have appealed to the social responsibility of their citizens to comply with social distancing rules. This column explores how regional differences in social capital can affect the spread of Covid-19, focusing on seven European countries. The results suggest that areas with high social capital registered between 12% and 32% fewer Covid-19 cases from mid-March until mid-May. A case study of Italy validates the independent role of social capital, showing a consistent reduction in excess deaths and documenting a reduction in mobility prior to the lockdown as a mediating channel.

Paola Giuliano, Imran Rasul, 18 June 2020

If social distancing is crucial to slow the spread of Covid-19, it is important to know what determines whether individuals will effectively adopt the practice. This column draws on real time data collected across many different countries to document important drivers of compliance with social distancing. These drivers are found to vary with social capital, trust in government and political beliefs.

Juan C. Palomino, Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, Raquel Sebastian, 16 June 2020

Enforced social distancing and lockdown measures to contain COVID-19 restrict economic activity, especially among workers in non-essential jobs who cannot ‘telework’. These have implications for inequality and poverty. This column analyses the capacity of individuals in 29 European countries to work under lockdown and the potential impact of a two-month lockdown on wages and inequality levels. There will be substantial and uneven wage losses across the board and poverty will rise. Inequality within countries will worsen, as it will between countries although to a lesser extent.

Martin Bodenstein, Giancarlo Corsetti, Luca Guerrieri, 12 June 2020

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 they are often criticised because of the social and the economic cost they entail. This column shows that 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 that are amplified by supply disruptions as workers in essential industries become ill. Social distancing measures can reduce these costs, especially if skewed towards non-essential industries and occupations with tasks that can be performed from home, helping to smooth the surge in infections among workers in the essential sector.

Adam Brzezinski, Valentin Kecht, David Van Dijcke, 12 June 2020

Lockdown policies have been found to be effective in promoting social distancing and slowing down the spread of COVID-19. Yet, such measures are often blamed for downturns in the economy. This column argues that the lockdowns in the US are in fact efficient in minimising the costs of the epidemic, once both the economic and medical burden that would arise in the absence of such policies are considered. Estimates from a controlled SIR model, which includes the possibility for changes in behaviour, suggest that lockdowns reduce the costs of the pandemic by at least 1.7% of annual GDP compared to a no-lockdown scenario.

Ajay Shenoy, 11 June 2020

Even as governments relax their lockdowns, they are considering how quickly to re-impose social distancing in response to a possible new outbreak. This column studies the impact of rainfall-induced social distancing in the days prior to official lockdown. A rainy weekend just prior to lockdown causes people to start staying home sooner, which has persistent impacts on the trajectory of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The impact is largely due to a reduction in the risk of a very big outbreak. Imposing social distancing only a few days sooner may thus help better control the epidemic.

M. Aykut Attar, Ayça Tekin-Koru, 11 June 2020

As governments begin to ease lockdown measures over the coming months, understanding how effectively countries have applied social distancing practices will be essential. This column introduces a Model-Inferred measure of latent social DIStancing (MIDIS) and calculates the measure for 44 countries using daily data and an epidemiology model. Mobility data from Apple and Google indicate that the measure can accurately measure distancing, and the measure also reflects governmental and behavioural responses while maintaining a robust relationship with daily output losses.

Francesca Borgonovi, Elodie Andrieu, 10 June 2020

Reducing social contacts can slow the spread of COVID-19. This column examines mobility patterns across US counties between mid-February and mid-May 2020. It finds that reductions in mobility differed across counties, and that community-level social capital can explain the geographic variations in mobility trends. Individuals reduced mobility earlier and to a higher degree in counties with high levels of social capital. Many counties, particularly in the Southeast US, may be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, matching low levels of social capital with high rates of chronic disease.

Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Moritz Kuhn, Michèle Tertilt, 30 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has hit women’s employment particularly hard, partly because the worst-hit sectors have high female employment shares, but also because schools and daycare closures have forced more mothers to leave their jobs. This column looks at Germany, where 26% of the workforce has children aged 14 or younger, and quantifies the macroeconomic importance of working parents. If schools and daycare centres remain closed as the economy slowly reopens, 11% of workers and 8% of all working hours will be lost to the labour market. Policies to restart the economy must accommodate the concerns of these families.

Sara Markowitz, Erik Nesson, Joshua J. Robinson, 28 May 2020

High levels of economic activity can foster the spread of communicable diseases through frequent person-to-person interactions.  This column discusses how research on high levels of employment affects the spread of influenza and other viruses transmitted via droplet-spread, such as SARS-CoV-2.   The results show that the high levels of employment in the US encourages the spread of influenza, especially when employment in service sectors are high.  Our results provide support for social distancing measures aimed to slow the growth of cases of COVID-19.

Guillaume Chapelle, 20 May 2020

Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as school closures and social distancing were implemented in the US against the spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic. This column explores the effect of these interventions on economic activity and death rates in US cities during and after 1918. The policies lowered the fatality rate during the peak of the pandemic but are associated with a significant rise in the death rate in subsequent years, possibly through reducing herd immunity. Their impact, positive or negative, on the growth of the manufacturing sector in US cities remains an open question.

William Maloney, Temel Taskin, 15 May 2020

Social distancing is critical to reducing the propagation of COVID-19. This column argues that in developed countries, mandatory policies matter less than voluntary demobilisation in reducing mobility and enabling social distancing.  An analysis using Google mobility data reveals significant declines in restaurant reservations in the US and movie theatre revenues in Sweden before the imposition of government non-pharmaceutical interventions. While this behaviour will help reduce mobility and the spread of the virus, it may also slow the economic recovery that follows. 

Ayça Tekin-Koru, 14 May 2020

The strict and prolonged age-specific containment measures in Turkey have both reduced infection/death rates and enabled less strict restrictions for the lower-risk groups. This column reviews Turkey’s response and examines the real-time effects of the COVID-19 crisis on production in Turkey. If finds that the targeted containment measures appear to have helped reduce a contraction in production that could have been much worse with a uniform lockdown. It also finds that the major brunt of the health crisis in terms of its human costs has been borne by the working class.

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