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.

Ravi Kanbur, 21 September 2020

From the public discourse, it seems clear that we are living in an age of rising inequality. However, common measures of income and consumption inequality disguise a more nuanced pattern of inequality change across the world. This column argues that inequality within countries has not been rising everywhere and that inequality between countries has decreased. At the same time, technological progress is increasingly displacing basic labour in favour of skilled labour and capital, across borders, and widening the wage gap. The overall effect is unclear. National policies to mitigate inequality are needed but, in the absence of international cooperation, are constrained by cross-border spillovers.

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Matthew Zahn, Michèle Belot, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Syngjoo Choi, Julian C. Jamison, Egon Tripodi, 05 September 2020

Individual behaviours affect the spread of infectious disease. This column examines factors that predict individual behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US using novel survey data. People with lower income and less flexible work arrangements are less likely to engage in behaviours that limit the spread of disease. The burden of measures to stem the pandemic is unevenly distributed across socio-demographic groups in ways that affect behaviour and potentially the spread of illness. Policies that assume otherwise are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.

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.

John McLaren, 11 August 2020

In the US, COVID-19 tends to magnify inequalities by disproportionately hitting minorities, particularly African Americans, who suffer from higher COVID-19 mortality rates. Higher rates of infection appear to be the cause rather than factors related to treatment. Using an indirect approach, this column uses census data to identify the socioeconomic factors that cause different racial groups to be differentially exposed to the virus. Very strong racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality rates are seen for African-American and First Nations populations. Occupation, income, poverty rates, or access to healthcare insurance appears to matter little. Pre-COVID-19 use of public transport, however, may be a significant factor.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, 10 August 2020

Income is linked to COVID-19 risk factors: poorer people are less likely to be able to socially distance or telework. However, higher-income areas tend to have more in-person interactions. This column disentangles the socioeconomic influences on COVID-19 behaviour and outcomes across the 3,000 counties of the US. Counties with higher overall income inequality tend to have higher infection rates. A higher population share of Black Americans and Hispanics is associated with higher infection rates. These effects do not fade over time from the first infection.

Esteban Aucejo, Jacob French, Paola Ugalde Araya, Basit Zafar, 09 August 2020

New research is emerging which evaluates how COVID-19 has already impacted a generation of students. This column uses a survey of students at one of the largest public universities in the US to show that while pandemic has been broadly disruptive to students, this disruption has been much larger for lower-income students. This seems to be primarily driven by lower-income students being more likely to have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and more worried about the direct health risks from the virus.

Oriol Aspachs, Ruben Durante, José García-Montalvo, Alberto Graziano, Josep Mestres, Marta Reynal-Querol, 22 September 2020

The economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic may disproportionately affect the most vulnerable segments of the population, creating serious challenges for social cohesion and political stability. This column constructs a high-frequency measure of income inequality using anonymised data from bank records on the wages and public transfers of over three million account holders in Spain. Wage inequality increased by almost 30% during the COVID-19 crisis, mainly due to job losses and wage cuts for low-income workers. However, public transfers were very effective at offsetting most, though not all, of this increase.

Ethan Ilzetzki, 05 August 2020

Pupils in schools across the UK have lost up to 105 days of education due to school closures during the COVID-19 lockdown and a second wave of the pandemic, likely in the autumn, may disrupt education further. This column discusses the latest Centre for Macroeconomics survey, in which the panel predicted that the cost to UK economic growth in the will be minor to moderate. However, the panel was unanimous that school closures will increase inequality, with a large majority of the panel predicting a persistent increase in inequality. The panel also predicted harm to gender equality, with many predicting persistent increases in inequality along gender lines.

Gianluca Violante, 31 July 2020

Most high earners bounce back from recessions. But Gianluca Violante tells Tim Phillips that, for the last 50 years, it has been a different story for low earners. 

Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 29 July 2020

COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, who are dying at a rate two to three times higher than their population share. This column uses a detailed individual-level dataset from Cook County, Illinois, to explore the relationship between COVID-19 mortality and race. Not only are Black Americans disproportionally affected by COVID-19, but they also started to succumb to it earlier than other groups. Such asymmetric effects can be traced back to racial segregation introduced by discriminatory lending practices in the 1930s.

Qing Hu, Ross Levine, Chen Lin, Mingzhu Tai, 18 July 2020

The financial conditions facing parents can have effects on children’s education outcomes, both in terms of schooling and parental support at home. This column presents evidence from the US, arguing that changes in banking regulation across states can cause changes in the experience of children through a number of channels. These effects are not uniform across household income brackets and can be mitigated when there are other family members such as grandparents that are able to help children with their personal development.

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. 

Orsetta Causa, Maria Chiara Cavalleri, 30 June 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic risks exacerbating existing inequalities. This column analyses distributional aspects of the crisis by focusing on non-standard workers, whose limited access to social protection and job retention schemes make them particularly vulnerable to labour market disruptions. The authors discuss which policy actions governments have taken thus far and which policies they can pursue further in order to support vulnerable workers and avert the risk of a pandemic inequality feedback loop.

Caitlin Brown, Martin Ravallion, Dominique van de Walle, 27 June 2020

Recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19 call for social distancing, washing, and access to information and treatment. However, people need to be in household environments that allow them to follow those recommendations. This column examines the relationship between poverty and the adequacy of the home environment. There is a strong wealth effect both within and between countries, where the poor are less likely to have the kind of dwellings and infrastructure to follow WHO recommendations. Complementary policies to address such inadequate home environments are needed.

David Bloom, Klaus Prettner, 25 June 2020

Over the last decade there has been a tremendous progress in automation. Many tasks previously seen as un-automatable can now be performed without human labour, and the number of industrial robots in use has increased sharply. This column describes the recent trends in automation and argues that its principal effects are to increase output per capita at the expense of rising inequality. Advancing technologies have mainly replaced the routine tasks of low-skilled workers, while the incomes robots generate flow to wealthier capital owners. The current COVID-19 pandemic is likely to reinforce these trends, raising the need for a policy response.

Stefania Fabrizio, Vivian Malta, Marina M. Tavares, 20 June 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is depressing growth globally, and lockdown measures are causing widespread job losses. This column illustrates that women are amongst the worst affected. Women are vulnerable not only because of their jobs, but also because of gender inequalities within housework division, education, and health. There is an urgent need to support women, repair gender disparities aggravated by crisis, and to reduce women’s vulnerability going forward. Gender-responsive fiscal measures are viable tools that work in the interests of women, as well as supporting economic growth and reducing poverty and inequality.

Ken Mayhew, Samuel Wills, 18 June 2020

Inequality within most developed countries is higher today than it was 30 years ago. Growth in emerging economies has reduced inequality between nations, but the benefits have been unevenly spread within those economies. This column analyses what has happened, why we should care, and what can be done about inequality. Governments have not focused enough on pre-market policies that prevent inequality arising in the first place. Post-market interventions should be seen as too little, too late. Instead, we need a call-to-arms for governments to re-focus on the deep underlying drivers of inequality.

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