Philippe Aghion, Helene Maghin, André Sapir, 25 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the structural dichotomy between the models of capitalism operating in Europe and the US; the former offers better protection for its citizens while the latter shows greater economic dynamism. This column argues that for all the harm COVID-19 has caused, the crisis has also provided an opening to rethink the versions of capitalism practised on both sides of the Atlantic. Some degree of convergence towards a better model is desirable, the authors suggest, and perhaps even possible.

Gunther Capelle-Blancard, Adrien Desroziers, 19 June 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic fallout, the response of the stock markets has raised concerns as well as questions. This column explores the surprising trends. There is some evidence that shareholders have favoured the less vulnerable firms, and that credit facilities and government guarantees, lower policy interest rates, and lockdown measures mitigated the decline in stock prices. However, fundamentals only explain a small part of the stock market variations at the country level. Overall, it is hard to deny that the links between stock prices and fundamentals have been loose at best.

Sylvain Leduc, Zheng Liu, 14 June 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the future of work. The pandemic may become recurrent and necessitate repeated adoptions of social distancing measures, creating substantial uncertainty about worker productivity. This column presents a theoretical framework suggesting that such job uncertainty reduces aggregate demand, and dampens business investment in general. However, automation may provide one way for businesses to cope with the uncertainty about worker productivity. It appears that pandemic-induced job uncertainty could stimulate automation investment, despite declines in aggregate demand.

Ross Levine, Chen Lin, Zigan Wang, 14 June 2020

There is ample evidence of the negative effects of pollution on health, with about one in six deaths worldwide attributed to air pollution. However, the effect of one firm’s toxic emissions on neighbouring firms’ employees and profits are not known. This column examines whether opening toxic pollution-emitting plants affect the career paths of executives at S&P 1500 firms in the US. The opening of such plants triggers substantial increases in executive migration from neighbouring firms. Corporations exposed to toxic emissions from other firms lose talented individuals and suffer stock-price declines.

Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 12 June 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak and the murder of George Floyd have dramatically exposed the racial inequalities in US society. This column studies the association between the historical experience of slavery and the African American family structure. Results indicate that the extreme demographic conditions prevailing among slaves on sugar plantations in the US South may have persistently shaped African American family formation. Over the period of 1880-1940, higher sugar suitability is associated with a higher likelihood of single female headship among black households.

Thomas Plümper, Eric Neumayer, 11 June 2020

Is Covid-19 a ‘rich man’s disease’, as many citizens in poorer countries believe it to be? This column descibes how in Germany, infections began with individuals returning from skiing holidays. In the first phase of the pandemic, infection rates were higher in richer areas and lower in more socially deprived districts. In the second phase, the ability to socially distance oneself mattered more – an ability that is itself socioeconomically stratified. Richer districts are now seeing fewer new infections, and the initial safety advantage of more socially deprived districts has disappeared.

Kritee Gujral, 10 June 2020

A quarter of all rural US hospitals, most of which are highly essential to their communities, are at high risk of closing.Hospital closures may increase transport time and delay treatment. This column examines hospital closures in California from 1995 to 2011 to assess the effects of rural and urban hospital closures on inpatient mortality. Mortality increases after a rural hospital closure not only in the local rural area but in the neighbouring urban areas as well. This adverse effect is larger for Medicaid patients and racial minorities.

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.

Jeffrey Chwieroth, Andrew Walter, 23 May 2020

Although necessary, many of the economic policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis may end up damaging political incumbents in the medium and long term. This column presents evidence suggesting that voters expect great things from their leaders in deep crises. Yet the potential for great disappointment arises from the inevitable perceived inequities that will follow from the coronavirus crisis bailouts. As the pandemic exacerbates existing divisions within societies, the political costs predicted implies that only a minority of the most skilled political leaders are likely to survive this crisis.

Olivier Darmouni, Oliver Giesecke, Alexander Rodnyansky, 20 May 2020

The share of firms’ borrowing from bond markets has been rising globally. This column argues that euro area companies with more bond debt are disproportionately affected by surprise monetary shocks, compared to firms with mostly bank debt. This finding stands in contrast to the predictions of a standard bank lending channel and points toward frictions in bond financing. This provides lessons for the conduct of monetary policy in times of hardship such as COVID-19, when the corporate sector suffers from liquidity shortages.

Guillaume Chapelle, 20 May 2020

Non-pharmaceutical interventions such as school closures and social distancing were implemented in the US against the spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic. This column explores the effect of these interventions on economic activity and death rates in US cities during and after 1918. The policies lowered the fatality rate during the peak of the pandemic but are associated with a significant rise in the death rate in subsequent years, possibly through reducing herd immunity. Their impact, positive or negative, on the growth of the manufacturing sector in US cities remains an open question.

Alina Kristin Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick, 18 May 2020

Household debt-to-income has quadrupled in the US since WWII. This column presents historical evidence suggesting that debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for middle-class households with low income growth. Middle-class households have increasingly tapped into rising housing wealth to finance spending in excess of income. Home-equity based borrowing accounts for 50% of the increase in US housing debt and turned the middle-class into the epicentre of financial fragility. 

R. Maria del Rio-Chanona, Penny Mealy, Anton Pichler, François Lafond, J. Doyne Farmer, 16 May 2020

Many researchers have studied the adverse impacts of the negative supply shock due to measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19. This column provides estimates of occupation- and industry-specific effects of both the supply and the demand shock for the US. US GDP is predicted to decline by 22% compared to the pre-COVID-19 period, and 24% of US jobs are likely to be vulnerable. The adverse effects are further estimated to be strongest for low-wage workers who might face employment reductions of up to 42% while high-wage workers are estimated to experience a 7% decrease.

Chang Ma, John Rogers, Sili Zhou, 13 May 2020

Forecasting the progress and impact of COVID-19 is central to the planning of policymakers around the world. This column provides a historical perspective by examining the immediate and bounce-back effects from six post-war disease shocks. GDP growth contractions are immediate and sizeable, but vary across countries. Despite an immediate ‘bounce back’, GDP tends to remain below its pre-shock level for several years. The negative effect on GDP is felt less in countries with larger first-year responses in government spending, especially on health care, and the indirect effects on GDP growth from affected trading partners are also important.

Francesco Bianchi, Renato Faccini, Leonardo Melosi, 13 May 2020

Fighting the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic poses a difficult task for fiscal and monetary authorities alike. The current low interest rate environment limits the tools of central banks while the record high debt levels curtail the efficacy of fiscal interventions. This column proposes a coordinated policy strategy aiming at creating a controlled rise of inflation and an increase in fiscal space in response to the COVID-19 shock. The strategy consists of the fiscal authority introducing an emergency budget while the monetary authority tolerates an increase in inflation to accommodate this emergency budget.

Sophia Chen, Deniz Igan, Nicola Pierri, Andrea Presbitero, 11 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns have led to unprecedented economic costs around the world. Using high-frequency indicators, this column shows that while COVID-19 is a global shock, European countries and US states with larger outbreaks have suffered significantly larger economic losses. The impact of COVID-19 is mostly captured by changes in people’s observed mobility whereas, so far, there is no robust evidence supporting additional impact from the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions, especially in the US. The results indicate a crucial role for communication and trust-building.

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.

Alexander Bick, Adam Blandin, 06 May 2020

As this column is published, the most recent government labour market statistics for the US refer to the week of 8-14 March, and so do not yet reflect the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. This column uses a series of real-time labour market surveys of US households to document labour market outcomes more rapidly and more often than traditional government surveys. The estimates point to unprecedented devastation in the US labour market. New surveys will be run throughout the summer.

Nicholas Bloom, Fatih Guvenen, Sergio Salgado, 05 May 2020

During recessions, some firms and industries get hit far harder than others. This column argues that the current COVID-19 crisis is no exception. While most firms have experienced a negative demand shock, firms in the entertainment, services, and manufacturing sector have experienced a dramatic decline in sales that is likely to persist over several months. The increase in the probability of firm-level disasters or, more precisely, the decrease in the skewness of the distribution of firms’ shocks, will play a significant role in the response of aggregate output and employment. 


CEPR Policy Research