Abigail Adams-Prassl, Teodora Boneva, Marta Golin, Christopher Rauh, 02 September 2020

Working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic has provided shelter from both the health risks and the economic shock brought about by the pandemic. This column uses survey data from the US and the UK to demonstrate systematic variation in individuals’ ability to work from home both across and within occupations and industries. In addition, men and workers with a college degree can do a substantially higher share of their tasks from home, while workers on low incomes report being able to do a smaller share. This polarisation has increased over the course of the pandemic, as workers who were already able to carry out a large share of tasks remotely have become able to do even more from home.

Charles Gottlieb, Jan Grobovšek, Markus Poschke, Fernando Saltiel, 29 August 2020

Many countries have implemented social distancing and lockdown policies to tame the spread of Covid-19. This column discusses the potential GDP and employment effects of lockdown policies for a broad cross-section of countries ranging in income per capita from Niger to Luxembourg. It shows that the employment and GDP effects of lockdown policies are U-shaped in income per capita. While workers in rich countries have a substantially higher ability to work from home, which mitigates declines in employment and GDP, poor countries concentrate employment and value-added in essential sectors that are not shut down. Middle-income countries see the largest declines as they feature relatively large employment shares in non-essential sectors and relatively low work from home ability

Sam Cosaert, Alexandros Theloudis, Bertrand Verheyden, 28 August 2020

COVID-19 lockdowns and school closures have affected working hours and household income, with an unequal effect on women and men. The collective model of the household has hitherto ignored distinctions between private versus joint activities by parents in household time allocation. This column examines the evolving costs and benefits of togetherness, using Dutch data for 2009–2012, and speculates on how lockdown policies may affect togetherness and household welfare. Joint leisure and childcare generate a loss of flexibility in the labour market, and joint childcare prevents specialisation, generating tension between parental childcare quality and quantity.

Ban Ki-moon, Erik Berglöf, Gordon Brown, Helen Clark, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson, 18 August 2020

With over one billion children still out of school because of the lockdown, there is now a real and present danger that the public health crisis will create a COVID generation who lose out on schooling and whose opportunities are permanently damaged. Yet at the very time we need extra resources, education funding is under threat. This letter from over 275 world leaders calls on the G20, the IMF, the World Bank and regional development banks and all countries to recognise the scale of the crisis, and proposes three initiatives to get the most disadvantaged and vulnerable back into education and enable them to catch up.

Sofoklis Goulas, Rigissa Megalokonomou, 17 August 2020

During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Greece eased its high school attendance policy despite few cases being reported among children of high school age. This column examines the relationship between the relaxed attendance policy and absences, academic performance, and neighbourhood income. Students of higher prior performance took more absences, while students of lower prior performance kept going to school. Prior performance is positively associated with neighbourhood income, suggesting that students in poorer neighbourhoods may be less likely to follow school distancing guidelines during a pandemic. The relaxed attendance policy is associated with decreased performance for students that take more absences.

Michael Gapen, Jonathan Millar, Blerina Uruçi, Pooja Sriram, 14 August 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, US policymakers must consider containment measures while weighing adverse health outcomes against forgone economic activity. This column uses panel data to evaluate alternative strategies to keep COVID-19 in check. Viable options to keep new case counts on a downward trajectory without economically costly shutdowns include more testing (at least 1.8 million per day for the US, used in isolation) and either mask requirements or indoor-dining restrictions. The US is nowhere near the point where herd immunity alone can control infections.

Yinon Bar-On, Ofer Cornfeld, Tatiana Baron, Ron Milo, Eran Yashiv, 04 July 2020

Rapidly expanding research on COVID-19 in economics typically posits an economy subject to a model of epidemiological dynamics. This column shows that there are often serious misspecifications of the model, which erroneously assume a relatively slow-moving disease, thereby distorting the policy decisions towards less severe, delayed interventions. Moreover, the scale of the disease is underestimated.

Benjamin Born, Alexander Dietrich, Gernot Müller, 31 July 2020

Sweden stands out from its European peers as the only country that did not impose a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This column uses this peer group to construct a synthetic control unit to approximate a counterfactual lockdown scenario for Sweden lasting from March 18 to May 17. The results suggest the lockdown would have reduced the number of COVID-19 infections by a half and deaths by a third.

Diane Coyle, David Nguyen, 24 July 2020

The Covid-19 lockdown has provided the opportunity to measure the financial value we give to 'free' digital services like social media and Google search. Diane Coyle and David Nguyen tell Tim Phillips what they discovered, and whether this value should be counted in GDP.

Read the paper in Covid Economics 33

Pablo Fajgelbaum, Amit Khandelwal, Wookun Kim, Cristiano Mantovani, Edouard Schaal, 17 July 2020

In implementing lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19, policymakers have primarily imposed the same policies uniformly across locations within a city. This column studies optimal dynamic lockdowns within a commuting network, using a framework that integrates canonical spatial epidemiology and trade models and is applied to commuting data from three cities – Daegu, Seoul and New York. It finds that optimal spatial lockdowns generate substantially smaller income losses than uniform lockdowns for a given virus spread.

Cem Özgüzel, Paolo Veneri, Rudiger Ahrend, 15 July 2020

Places differ in the degree to which they can maintain economic activity through remote working in the face of shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This column assesses the capacity of regions in 30 developed economies to shift to remote working during a lockdown. Based on individual-level data on occupations from labour force surveys, it shows that cities – and in particular capitals – typically have a higher share of occupations suitable for remote working. This may offset some of the stronger negative economic impacts of COVID-related policies on cities. Regional disparities in the capacity for remote working also clearly reflect the level of education of the workforce.

David Miles, 13 July 2020

A major policy issue for many governments is how long a lockdown introduced to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus should be maintained. This column analyses what an assessment of costs and benefits of lockdown imply for how policy should be set in the UK. The question is simple: Has the length of the UK lockdown been warranted and should restrictions now be eased significantly? Using a wide range of scenarios for costs and benefits it appears as though extending the UK lockdown beyond three-months (that is beyond June) was not likely to be optimal.  

Chryssi Giannitsarou, Flavio Toxvaerd, 12 July 2020

We do not yet know whether individuals who recover from COVID-19 can be reinfected. If immunity wanes, the disease will become endemic, in sharp contrast to a model in which recovery confers permanent immunity. This column considers the possibility that immunity is indeed only temporary, and derives a stylised optimal containment policy to reduce the initial wave of contagion and then manage persistent infections. In practice, this means that partial lockdowns and social distancing measures may be the norm for years to come. 

Diane Coyle, David Nguyen, 10 July 2020

Consumer spending patterns changed substantially during lockdown in the UK, as in other countries, with online consumption in general increasing. This column uses findings from a survey of the UK online population conducted before lockdown in late February 2020 and again in May to reveal some large and significant changes in the valuations of goods and services, with some large differences by age and gender. The lockdown has acted as a natural experiment testing the extent to which digital goods and physical goods are substitutes. The changes in valuation may indicate which services will be most valuable, and to which groups, in a post-pandemic world where more activity takes place online. 

Asli Demirgüç-Kunt, Michael Lokshin, Iván Torre, 09 July 2020

Many countries have implemented non-pharmaceutical interventions such as lockdowns as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the economic costs of such measures have been recognized, their size and importance have not yet been fully assessed. This column analyses high-frequency proxies of economic activity and suggests that lockdowns led to a decline of about 10% in economic activity across Europe and Central Asia. On average, countries that implemented lockdowns in the early stages of the pandemic are found to have better short-term economic outcomes and lower cumulative mortality.

Stefan Thewissen, Duncan MacDonald, Christopher Prinz, Maëlle Stricot, 08 July 2020

Paid sick leave is an important policy for protecting workers and their communities during a pandemic, serving not only to preserve jobs and incomes but also to contain the spread of the virus. This column examines how different countries implemented paid sick leave during the COVID-19 crisis. Evidence suggests such policies will facilitate an orderly end to lockdowns – and sustain workers during subsequent waves of infection – but only if temporary extensions are kept in place and broadened to include those workers currently denied coverage.

Chen Chen, Sudipto Dasgupta, Thanh Huynh, Ying Xia, 08 July 2020

Stay-at-home orders, when effective, can save both lives and the economy. Even though the short-term economic impact is very significant, not getting the pandemic under control can impose even higher economic costs in the future. This column studies the market reactions following staggered lockdown events across US states during Covid-19. It finds that returns on firms located in lockdown states are higher following the lockdown. These reactions can be interpreted as reflecting updated beliefs of market participants in the light of events that follow the lockdowns, such as compliance with stay-at-home orders.

Apostolos Davillas, Andrew M Jones, 30 June 2020

The economic and policy response to COVID-19 has created specific gradients in both exposure to the disease itself and in exposure to the economic impact of the lockdown. This column uses survey data to show that inequality in psychological distress has increased since the pandemic in the UK. However, the proportion of inequality explained by observed individual circumstances has decreased. Pre-pandemic, the largest contributors were financial, employment and housing conditions. By April 2020, age and gender accounted for a larger share, through the impact of the pandemic on mental wellbeing among young people. Working in COVID-affected industries, household composition and parental occupation have also increased their association with the inequality in psychological distress. 

Titan Alon, Minki Kim, David Lagakos , Mitchell VanVuren, 26 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic policy responses in most advanced economies, and in particular sustained lockdowns matched with sizable transfers to workers. This column discuss the extent to which developing countries should try to replicate these policies. Due to differences in labour market informality, fiscal capacity, healthcare infrastructure, and demographics, blanket lockdowns appear less effective in developing countries. Age-targeted policies – where the young are allowed to work while the old are shielded from the virus – can potentially save both more lives and livelihoods.

Supriya Garikipati, Uma Kambhampati, 21 June 2020

The effectiveness of female leaders in handling the COVID crisis has received a lot of media attention. This column examines whether the gender of the national leader truly makes a significant difference to the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the first quarter of the pandemic, with differences in lockdown timing examined as a plausible explanation for these patterns. The findings show that COVID outcomes are systematically better in countries led by women. Insights from behavioural studies and leadership literature are used to speculate on the sources of these differences, as well as on their implications. 

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