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.

Francesca Borgonovi, Elodie Andrieu, S V Subramanian, 22 July 2020

Areas with high levels of social capital may have been especially at risk during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic due to high levels of social interaction. At the same time, norms of trust and reciprocity could have contributed to reducing the health impact of the pandemic. Using data from US counties on COVID-19 cases and deaths, this column shows that disease spread was faster the higher the social capital in a community. However, case fatality rates between January and May 2020 were lower in communities with higher levels of social capital. As case numbers in the US start to rise following the relaxation of social distancing regulations, social capital may become an important social determinant of health.

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.

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.

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