Barbara Baarsma, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Robin Fransman, Bas Jacobs, Carl Koopmans, Coen Teulings, 04 December 2020

The aim of the Dutch government’s current policy to combat COVID-19, as in many other countries, is to reduce the number of infections as much as possible. This column argues that recent data show that societies can handle a much larger number of infections during this second wave without excessive social costs, and that the Dutch policy should therefore move away from almost eliminating infections towards creating herd immunity by letting the COVID-19-virus circulate more freely among the non-vulnerable groups, while strictly protecting the vulnerable groups.

Miltos Makris, Flavio Toxvaerd, 24 November 2020

The prospect of an effective vaccine to Covid-19 in the near term makes it important to understand private and public incentives to suppress infection. This column examines how the prospect of a vaccine alters individuals’ incentives to self-protect between now and the arrival of the vaccine, and how a benevolent social planner would prefer individuals to self-protect. It finds that individuals tend to ramp up self-protection in anticipation of the vaccine, while the social planner manages the transition by introducing stricter suppression at early stages.

Claudia Hupkau, Barbara Petrongolo, 23 November 2020

The second lockdown in the UK is raising many questions about the impact on the economy and on society more broadly, including the implications for gender equality in the workplace and at home. This column uses household survey data to show that at the start of the pandemic in the UK, men were slightly more likely than women to be furloughed and to experience earnings losses, but by late summer the gender differential in furlough rates had reversed. Women also provided for a larger share of increased childcare needs on average, although in an important share of households, fathers became the primary childcare providers during the first lockdown. Sectors with a large share of female employment are now subjected to the second lockdown. These changes may have longer-term consequences on gender inequalities if they eventually reshape the reorganisation of work and family life.

Francesca Caselli, Francesco Grigoli, Weicheng Lian, Damiano Sandri, 16 November 2020

Non-pharmaceutical interventions remain key to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column examines the impact of lockdowns on mobility in a large number of countries during the first seven months of the pandemic. Both lockdowns and voluntary social distancing helped contain the first wave of COVID-19. In particular, stringent and rapidly adopted lockdowns significantly slowed the spread of the virus. Despite their short-term economic costs, early and tight lockdowns may pave the way to a faster recovery.

Sonia Bhalotra, 13 November 2020

There has been a global surge in domestic violence since the onset of Covid-19. This column provides insights into what may be driving this rise, drawing on evidence from Brazil. Job loss leads to increases in domestic violence, irrespective of whether it is the perpetrator or victim whose job is lost. Both income stress and an increase in time spent together seem to contribute to this. Unemployment benefits have mitigation potential if they can be supplemented by policies designed to encourage a return to work. 

Marcella Alsan, Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer, Minjeong Joyce Kim, Stefanie Stantcheva, David Yang, 13 November 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic offers an example of how two core government functions – the protection of civil liberties and the provision of public goods – can come into conflict. This column reports on a large-scale representative survey administered to more than 400,000 people in 15 countries which shows that a large fraction of people around the world are willing to sacrifice their own rights and freedoms in order to improve public health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens’ support, however, is likely to be heterogeneous and depends on their own exposure to COVID-19 health risk, as well as on how much they fear the erosion of their civil liberties.

Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln, Dirk Krueger, Alexander Ludwig, Irina Popova, 12 November 2020

According to the World Bank, around 1.6 billion school children were affected by Covid-related school and childcare centre closures at their peak. This column uses a model that features public schooling as an input into the human capital production of children, as well as the monetary and time investment of parents into their children. The results suggest that school and childcare closures have significant negative long-term consequences on the human capital and welfare of the affected children, especially those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. The loss in schooling and associated human capital accumulation is harder to offset the longer the crisis lasts.

Margareta Drzeniek, Sheana Tambourgi, Ilaria Marchese, 12 November 2020

COVID-19 is accelerating structural transformations, notably towards more digitalised and more automated economies. This column presents a COVID-19 economic recovery index which considers the extent to which a country is exposed to major health effects from COVID-19, the degree to which a country’s economy will be affected by the crisis, and a country’s capacity to recover and rebuild to pre-COVID-19 levels. To guide their economies out of this crisis and to ready them for the coming transformation, governments need to restore trade flows, manage the risks of slowing global economic convergence, and actively prepare for accelerating economic transformation.

Per Engzell, Arun Frey, Mark Verhagen, 09 November 2020

School closures have been a common tool in the battle against COVID-19. Yet, their costs and benefits remain largely unknown. This column estimates the ‘learning loss’ that occurred when Dutch schools closed for eight weeks, using national exams that took place just before and after lockdown and similar data from previous years. On average, students lost out on a fifth of a year’s worth of learning. Losses were especially marked among those from disadvantaged homes.

Vincenzo Galasso, Vincent Pons, Paola Profeta, 07 November 2020

The efficacy of government lockdown measures to contain COVID-19 hinges on people’s willingness to comply. It is critical to identify and convince those who are the least compliant. This column surveyed over 21,000 respondents in eight OECD countries, in March and April 2020, on beliefs about COVID-19 and containment measures and their level of compliance with the measures. Men and women differ strikingly in both beliefs and behaviours, with women are more likely to take the pandemic seriously and more compliant than men. The findings suggest that public health communication should target men and women differently.

Martin O'Connell, Áureo De Paula, Kate Smith, 04 November 2020

The first wave of COVID-19 infections led to widespread stories of shortages in grocery stores as consumers stocked up in anticipation of lockdowns. This column summarises findings, based on household scanner data from the UK, on the extent of consumer hoarding during the first phase of the pandemic. It shows that there were large spikes in demand for storable goods, and this was mainly driven by many households purchasing these goods more frequently. 

Kenneth Lee, 04 November 2020

On March 24, 2020, India's Prime Minister announced the world's largest COVID-19 lockdown, bringing to a near-halt the economic and social lives of more than one billion Indian residents. Ken Lee talks to Tim Phillips about his work on the economic impacts and behavioural changes induced by this unprecedented policy using two unique data sources: Facebook mobility data and a representative sample of previously surveyed low income Delhi households.

Read the underlying CEPR Covid Economics paper: Job loss and behavioral change: The unprecedented effects of the India lockdown in Delhi  by Kenneth Lee, Harshil Sahai, Patrick Baylis and Michael Greenstone

Kadir Atalay, Rebecca Edwards, Stefanie Schurer, David Ubilava, 02 November 2020

Some commentators argue that the measures implemented to slow the spread of Covid-19 will do more harm than good due to the economic contraction itself, but also due to the mental health impacts of the imposed social isolation. This column uses evidence from the past four decades in Australia to show that economic downturns actually have very little impact on mortality except to reduce vehicle transport deaths. While this of course does not preclude an impact on wellbeing from the current lockdowns or recession, we may at least see an even greater reduction in mortality during this recession due to fewer people being on the roads.  

Nicola Borri, Francesco Drago, Chiara Santantonio, Francesco Sobbrio, 23 October 2020

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many countries imposed lockdowns to control the spread of the virus. This column evaluates the Italian economic lockdown and its effect on mortality due to Covid-19. It finds that the intensity of the lockdown is associated with a significant reduction in mortality among people aged 40 and over, with larger and more significant effects for individuals over 50. Back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate that in the 26 days between 5 April and 30 April 4,793 deaths were avoided in the 3,518 municipalities which experienced a more intense lockdown.

Olivier Bargain, Ulugbek Aminjonov, 23 October 2020

As a second wave of COVID-19 threatens the health of communities across the globe, governments are considering another round of lockdowns. But the success of those policies will depend largely on the levels of compliance, which will in turn depend on the confidence that citizens have in their leaders. This column summarises the results of recent studies examining the effect of civic trust during the first wave of the pandemic. The evidence points to a higher rate of compliance with stay-at-home policies in regions with a higher level of long-term trust in politicians.

Tommaso Giommoni, Gabriel Loumeau, 19 October 2020

During the COVID-19 outbreak many countries responded with the introduction of social containment measures, but the effects of these ‘lockdown’ policies are unclear. This column examines the electoral impact of the lockdown in France. Focusing on differential restriction measures implemented across French departments, it looks at voting behaviour in the pre-lockdown first round of municipal elections and in the second round after lockdown was implemented. Lockdown regulations appear to have significantly affected electoral outcomes, with higher vote shares for the incumbent and higher voter turnout in localities under harder restrictions.

Christopher Carroll, Edmund S. Crawley, Jiri Slacalek, Matthew N. White, 14 October 2020

The 2020 US CARES Act aimed to bolster consumer spending. This column tests the effectiveness of the Act by modelling the spending and saving behaviour of households during the COVID-19 pandemic, differentiating between the employed, temporarily unemployed and persistently unemployed. In the case of a short-lived lockdown, it finds that the CARES Act should prompt a swift recovery in consumer spending. If a longer-lasting lockdown is imposed to combat a ‘second wave’ of the virus, an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits will likely be needed.

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.

Jacek Rothert, Ryan Brady, Michael Insler, 22 September 2020

While individual states in the US decide their own lockdown policies, they are not able to restrict travel across their borders. A lax policy in some states can thus exacerbate the outbreak in other states. Drawing on recent research and county- and state-level US data, this column examines just how big the problem is. It finds that epidemiological spillovers across the US states are substantial and lax policies in the most lenient states translate into millions of additional infections in other parts of the country in the long run.

Yoseph Getachew, 22 September 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers have often relied on epidemiology models to track the spread of the outbreak. However, such models lack the necessary tools to account for individual behaviour potentially influencing the dynamics of the pandemic. This column integrates individual economic decision-making and voluntary social distancing into these models. It argues that voluntary social distancing is important for both flattening the infection curve and minimising economic damage. Although government-enforced social distancing is much more effective in flattening the curve, it comes at a higher cost to the economy.

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