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.

Xiaohui Chen, Ziyi Qiu, 13 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a vast spectrum of unprecedented government interventions. This column discusses the impact of various interventions on COVID-19 transmission dynamics and the associated economic consequences. Examining the variation in government policies, it finds that policies such as lockdown, school closure, centralised quarantine and mask wearing are effective in controlling the virus transmission. A series of scenario analyses suggest that countries may avoid lockdown by imposing school closures, mask wearing and centralised quarantine simultaneously to reach similar COVID-19 infection mitigation outcomes.

Marcus Painter, Tian Qiu, 11 May 2020

Social distancing is vital to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Leveraging smartphone geolocation data, this column examines how political beliefs impact the effectiveness of state-level social distancing orders in the US. The findings suggest that Republicans and misaligned Democrats are less likely to adhere to social distancing orders. Bipartisan support for social distancing measures thus appears to be a key factor in how quickly we can mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Ramanand Jeeneea, Kaviraj Sharma Sukon, 09 May 2020

The government of Mauritius responded early to the COVID-19 pandemic with stringent lockdown measures and saw a drastic reduction in new cases. This column examines the Mauritian response and estimates that the measures led to an 80% reduction in the coronavirus transmission rate. A well-implemented and early ‘hard lockdown’ can be effective in managing the spread of COVID-19.

Zachary Barnett-Howell, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, 07 May 2020

Governments around the world have implemented social distancing and lockdown policies designed to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus by restricting the movement and everyday activity of billions of people. This column uses the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team’s epidemiological model to estimate the benefit from a set of social distancing and suppression policies in different countries. A younger population, less susceptible to the disease and less willing to exchange economic wellbeing for risk reduction, means that lockdown measures are likely to be less valuable in poorer countries. 

Dimitris K. Chronopoulos, Marcel Lukas, John O.S. Wilson, 06 May 2020

Since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in January 2020, the UK government has introduced successive public health measures, culminating in late March 2020 with enforced closures of non-essential businesses and social distancing. These measures are significantly affecting UK household incomes and expenditures. This column exploits a large anonymised transaction-level dataset covering Great Britain to examine real-time consumer spending responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and related public policy measures. While there are differences by age, gender, and income level, overall consumer spending declined as the government lockdown becames imminent and has continued to decline since.

Miltos Makris, 04 May 2020

Social distancing fits well in the economist’s analytical framework. This column discusses how epidemiological models can be enriched with individual social distancing decisions. Preliminary simulations show how an epidemic could be influenced by the interaction of private decisions and government measures on social distancing. The simulations highlight the importance of including economic insights in epidemiological simulations, rather than serving as forecasts.

ChaeWon Baek, Peter B. McCrory, Todd Messer, Preston Mui, 30 April 2020

Stay-at-home orders have been imposed in many countries to flatten the COVID-19 pandemic curve, but it’s not clear how much economic disruption is caused directly by the orders and how much by the coronavirus. This column disentangles the two by comparing the implementation of stay-at-home policies across the US and high-frequency unemployment insurance claims. The direct effect of stay-at-home orders accounted for a significant but minority share of the overall rise in unemployment claims; unemployment would have risen even without such orders. So long as the underlying public health crisis persists, undoing stay-at-home orders will only bring limited economic relief.

Miklós Koren, Rita Peto, 29 April 2020

Social distancing interventions can be effective against epidemics, but they are potentially detrimental to the economy. Businesses that rely on face-to-face communication or close physical proximity when producing a product or providing a service are particularly vulnerable. This column provides theory-based measures of the reliance of US businesses on human interaction, detailed by industry and geographic location. Retail, hotels and restaurants, arts and entertainment and schools are the most affected sectors. The results can help target fiscal assistance to businesses that are most disrupted by social distancing.

Uri Alon, Eran Yashiv, 27 April 2020

Countries are facing stark choices between ending the lockdown to revive people’s lives and risking the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column proposes an exit strategy from lockdown based on a vulnerability in the coronavirus transmission mechanism, i.e. the latent period in which most infected people do not infect others. An optimal work/lockdown cycle based on this weak spot could minimise infection risks while greatly improving the painful trade-offs faced by policymakers.

Teresa Barbieri, Gaetano Basso, Sergio Scicchitano, 27 April 2020

Many countries are now designing exit strategies from the sectoral lockdowns put in place to contain the outbreak of Covid-19. This column provides new evidence from Italy on the degree of workplace risk of exposure to the virus. Unsurprisingly, the health sector is the most exposed to diseases and infections, while the services sector is the most risky in terms of physical proximity. These and other findings can help in deciding which activities to reopen first and where to reinforce security measures.

Andrew Scott, Jonathan David Old, 27 April 2020

COVID-19 is the first pandemic to since the world’s population consisted of more people aged over 65 than under five. Given that COVID-19 fatality rates rise sharply with age, that substantially affects the number of people at risk and the gains from social distancing. This column reveals that adjusting for change in the age structure and longevity of the US, the value of social distancing today is more than three times its corresponding 1920 value. Ageing societies and longer lives support considerably longer economic shutdowns compared to past pandemics.  

Simona Bignami-Van Assche, Daniela Ghio, Ari Van Assche, 17 April 2020

It is well understood that COVID-19 severity varies with age. However, little consideration has been given to the differential trend of infections across age groups. By drawing from the Italian experience, this column shows how the effectiveness of strategies to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections crucially depends on workforce demographics. It suggests that restricting the age of essential workers may be useful to mitigate the work–security trade-off while keeping the economy going.

Ruben Durante, Luigi Guiso, Giorgio Gulino, 16 April 2020

Social distancing slows the spread of COVID-19. In regions that adopt social distancing practices early (i.e. before receiving explicit stay-at-home guidelines from their governments), the virus can be contained more quickly. Using Italian data from phone location tracking of movements made by individuals after the pandemic began, this column finds sharper drops in mobility in areas with higher ‘civic capital’, suggesting that civic values can mediate the social distancing process.

Andrea Ichino, Giacomo Calzolari, Andrea Mattozzi, Aldo Rustichini, Giulio Zanella, Massimo Anelli, 25 March 2020

The world economy cannot survive the current social distancing for more than a few weeks. This column proposes a viable strategy to address the joint health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, which involves gradually sending the young who face the lowest risks back to work on a voluntary basis. This should happen as soon as the congestion of healthcare systems is less critical, but while a large fraction of the population is not yet immune. All of these workers in centrally relevant sectors must be temporarily separated from the old and the immunocompromised. They must also be frequently tested for COVID-19 and for subsequent immunity as well as monitored to immediately trace the contagion they may induce or receive.

Joan Monras, 25 March 2020

While the world is waiting for a vaccine that helps defeat COVID-19, many countries have constrained mobility considerably to try to curb the expansion of the virus. However, such ‘social distancing’ comes with large economic costs. Based on recent evidence on commuting flows and local consumption patterns, this column proposes ways to think about social distancing policies that may be effective and, at the same time, limit the negative consequences for the economy. 



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