Mariarosaria Comunale, 23 August 2020

Historically, Lithuania has had very high suicide rates, especially among its male population. This column aims to shed light on possible factors linked to the high suicide rates in the Baltic states and specifically in Lithuania. Factors with the strongest links to suicide rates in the region include GDP growth, demographics, alcohol consumption, psychological factors and climate temperature. For Lithuania specifically, other macroeconomic variables (especially linked to the labour market) may also matter. The percentage of rural population is not a key robust factor.

Eudora Ribeiro, 12 August 2020

Fear and imposed isolation due to COVID-19 have raised alarms about the impact on mental health on a global scale. The severe anticipated global recession and substantial increases in unemployment and indebtedness are both risk factors for suicide. This column reviews past similar scenarios of pandemics and recessions and its links to suicide. The recipe for preventing suicide amidst the COVID-19 pandemic includes investment in mental healthcare, such as providing suicide prevention services, and active employment policies.

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.

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.

Annie Tubadji, Don Webber, Frederic Boy, 10 June 2020

The general public’s mental health can be affected by different public policy responses to a pandemic threat. Italy, the UK and Sweden implemented distinct approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic: early lockdown, delayed lockdown, and no lockdown. This column presents a novel culture-based Development approach using narrative economics of language and Google trend data. It is evident that countries had a pre-existing culturally relative dispositions towards death-related anxiety and their sensitivity to COVID-19 public policy was country-specific. Further, one country’s lockdown policy can affect another country’s mental health, suggesting that policymakers should account for this spillover effect.

Shaun P. Hargreaves Heap, Christel Koop, Konstantinos Matakos, Asli Unan, Nina Weber, 06 June 2020

The behavioural interventions to control the spread of COVID-19 present trade-offs between health and wealth. To be successful, an understanding of how the public currently values lives over economic loss is needed. A survey experiment in the US and UK finds that people highly prioritise saving lives, but this valuation will change as economic losses mount. Individual differences in valuation also predict individual compliance with COVID-19 policies, and information on COVID-19 deaths and income losses can affect valuations. Caution in relaxing the lockdown will help build public support and mitigate polarising effects and, through increasing compliance, improve its economic efficacy.

Andrew Oswald, Nattavudh Powdthavee, 06 June 2020

Reopening universities for the autumn term will be risky for individuals' health and safety. This column describes the latest epidemiological evidence and argues that the biggest influence on individuals’ risk of severe illness is age. Individuals in their sixties face a 30 times higher fatality risk from COVID-19 than individuals in their thirties. Being obese, non-white, a man, and having an underlying health condition also matter – each roughly doubles the fatality risk.  But chronological age still remains the biggest risk – a fact that universities should keep in mind when planning their autumnal schedules.

Hannes Schwandt, 02 June 2020

Worries about the impact of COVID-19 on pregnant mothers and their offspring are wide-spread. As a comparison, the Spanish Flu pandemic had devastating health impacts on pregnant mothers and in-utero exposure to influenza is known to have negative short- and long-term consequences for children. This column, however, argues that the existing evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic allows for cautious optimism about the impacts of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their children.

Jeremie Gross, Catherine Guirkinger, Jean-Philippe Platteau, 16 April 2020

For many regions around the world, geographic isolation is the primary cause of seasonal fluctuations in the price and availability of foodgrain. To activate the local food market, dampen such fluctuations, and improve people’s nutritional status, Burkina Faso’s Food Security Granaries programme set up village-level cooperatives and put them in charge of buying grain from outside sources and selling it locally. This column assesses the effects of the intervention and finds that market activation considerably reduced nutritional stress, especially among young children. The nutritional improvement is driven by a change in the timing of food purchase and hence, of consumption.

Panle Jia Barwick, Shanjun Li, Liguo Lin, Eric Zou, 12 February 2020

During 2013–2014, China launched a nationwide, real-time air quality monitoring and disclosure programme which substantially expanded public access to pollution information. This column analyses the impact of the programme and finds that it triggered a cascade of changes in household behaviour, prompting people to find out more online about pollution-related topics, adjust their day-to-day consumption to avoid exposure to pollution, and exhibit a higher willingness to pay for housing in less-polluted areas. The programme’s estimated annual health benefits far outweigh the combined costs of the programme and associated pollution-avoidance behaviours.

Tiziano Arduini, Alberto Bisin, Onur Ozgur, Eleonora Patacchini, 27 November 2019

Smoking and alcohol use are widespread among adolescents in the US and are linked to negative socioeconomic effects.While existing research has separately looked at the dynamic choice and the social interactions that shape adolescent risky behaviours, this column considers both components in a dynamic social interactions model. Looking at alcohol and smoking use in a school environment, it finds that addiction and peer effects are more than twice as important as the effect of individual preferences in shaping risky behaviour and that students take into account the amount of time they have left in the school system.

Joan Costa-Font, Belén Sáenz de Miera, 20 October 2019

Changes in working hours and the associated time and energy consumed during work can exert an important influence on people’s fitness. However, the effects of such changes on health behaviour and obesity are not well understood. This column examines the effects of a 2001 French national reform that reduced working hours on employee obesity and overweight. Although reduced working times could, in theory, be used for health-promoting activities, in practice it had different effects on white- and blue-collar workers. Policies to reduce working hours alone do not necessarily produce better fitness for everyone.

Kacie Dragan, Ingrid Gould Ellen, Sherry Glied, 19 September 2019

The pace of gentrification in US cities has accelerated, but little evidence exists on its impact on low-income children. This column uses Medicaid claims data to examine how gentrification affects children’s health and wellbeing in New York City. It finds that low-income children born in areas that gentrify are no more likely to move than those born in areas that don't gentrify, and those that do move tend to end up living in areas of lower poverty. Moreover, gentrification does not appear to dramatically alter the health status or health-system utilisation of children by age 9–11, although children growing up in gentrifying areas show somewhat elevated levels of anxiety and depression.

Cormac Ó Gráda, 02 September 2019

Of WWII’s warring powers only the Soviet Union suffered mass starvation, but as this column, part of a Vox debate on the economics of WWII, describes, it is a measure of the war’s global reach that 20 to 25 million civilians died of hunger or hunger-related diseases outside Europe. In Britain effective rationing ensured a ‘fair’ distribution of food supplies throughout the war and in Germany the famine conditions experienced in 1918-19 were not replicated, but Japan was facing semi-starvation at war’s end. In Europe, apart from Greece and the Soviet Union, famine mortality was modest, but 3-5% of the populations of faraway Bengal, Henan, and Java perished. 

Shari Eli, Trevon Logan, Boriana Miloucheva, 20 August 2019

The mortality gap between blacks and whites in the US has been well documented, but there is still considerable debate over why the gap has remained so large and why it has persisted over the last century. This column explores these questions using unique data on black and white Civil War veterans to measure one of the earliest known incidences of physician bias against African Americans. It shows that physician bias had large effects on income and longevity of blacks relative to whites and considers the ways in which doctor attitudes still contribute to the racial mortality gap today. 

Karen Clay, Peter Juul Egedesø, Casper Worm Hansen, Peter Jensen, Avery Calkins, 13 August 2019

In the early 20th century, the US and Europe experienced striking reductions in tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, even before effective medical treatments were developed. However, evidence is mixed on whether improved public health interventions had any effect. This column analyses the effects of the first public health demonstration on TB mortality, total mortality, and infant mortality. Although generally considered a success, the findings suggest that the Framingham Demonstration in fact had little effect on TB mortality.

Charles Courtemanche, Art Carden, Xilin Zhou, Murugi Ndirangu, 18 July 2019

Food security is a concern even in industrialised countries, with 14.5% of US households lacking food security during at least some of the year 2012. This column examines the impact of Walmart Supercenters’ entry into the local market and finds that it improves food security, especially among low-income households and households with children. It suggests that the unintended consequences of policies aimed at thwarting Walmart’s market entry may reduce food security for the most vulnerable segments of society.

Leandro de la Escosura, 15 June 2019

The concept of human development views wellbeing as being affected by a wide range of factors including health and education. This column examines worldwide long-term wellbeing from 1870-2015 with an augmented historical human development index (AHHDI) that combines new measures of achievements in health, education, material living standards, and political freedom. It shows that world human development has steadily improved over time, although advances have been unevenly distributed across world regions.

Mariacristina De Nardi, 03 May 2019

MariaCristina De Nardi tells Tim Phillips that non-college-educated Americans born in the 1960s are dying younger, earning less, and paying more for healthcare than in their parents' generation.

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