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.

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.

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. 

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