Coen Teulings, 30 March 2021

School closures have been a globally used strategy in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Coen Teulings talks to Tim Phillips about a SIR (Susceptibles-Infected-Recovered) model for the Netherlands, where the recent closure of primary and secondary schools is shown to be counter-productive (as it increases future vulnerability to infection) and hard to reverse (since the increased vulnerability demands continuation). Behavioural economics explains why decision making and the public debate are so distorted, to the detriment of youngsters.

Michele Battisti, Andros Kourtellos, Giuseppe Maggio, 02 February 2021

While the long-run costs of Covid-19-related school closures in terms of human capital losses are sure to be enormous, especially for low-income countries, the benefits in terms of reducing the spread of the virus are less clear. This column investigates the role of schools in the diffusion of Covid-19 using a natural experiment in Sicily, where the reopening of some schools in autumn 2020 was delayed due to a national referendum and local elections. It finds that school openings do appear to increase the number of Covid-19 cases at a local level, although the effects are highly heterogeneous across school, population, and institutional characteristics. Interestingly, the effects disappear when class size is below average.

Joshua Gans, 31 August 2020

Standard epidemiological models that show how infection rates in the population rise and then fall assume that people do not understand what’s going on. When people react to infection rates by changing behaviour, the model’s predictions are no longer valid. This column explains why that can mean that pandemics don’t rage out of control but become something more endemic. In particular, epidemiological models that incorporate rational economic agents tend to predict that pandemics may move towards a steady state for a significant period of time.

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