David Miles, 13 July 2020

A major policy issue for many governments is how long a lockdown introduced to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus should be maintained. This column analyses what an assessment of costs and benefits of lockdown imply for how policy should be set in the UK. The question is simple: Has the length of the UK lockdown been warranted and should restrictions now be eased significantly? Using a wide range of scenarios for costs and benefits it appears as though extending the UK lockdown beyond three-months (that is beyond June) was not likely to be optimal.  

Nicolas Gonne, Olivier Hubert, 08 July 2020

The shutdown of passenger air travel at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the spread of the disease but caused major economic losses for the sector. This column presents a cost-benefit analysis of the global freeze of passenger air traffic. While any conclusion is highly dependent on a handful of factors, including the controversial and difficult-to-calculate ‘value of a statistical life’, the simulations provide useful anchoring points at a time when governments are contemplating reopening air routes, as well as in the face of a potential second wave of infections.

Simon Burgess, 16 June 2020

As policy attention in countries around Europe shifts to mitigating the longer-run impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a central concern will be to prevent this one-off event from permanently blighting the life chances of the millions of children who missed weeks of school due to the lockdown. Focusing on the UK, this column suggests a way to repair some of the educational damage using small group tutoring, a method with widely proven effectiveness, at a modest cost, and on a rapid but feasible timescale.

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.

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.

Anton Pichler, Marco Pangallo, R. Maria del Rio-Chanona, François Lafond, J. Doyne Farmer, 07 June 2020

Many governments are slowly unwinding their economies from nationwide lockdowns. However, re-opening the economy entails a serious trade-off between fostering economic output and keeping the spread of infection low. This column reports several re-opening scenarios for the UK economy, documenting their projected impacts on both GDP and the spread of the virus. The results suggest that it is best to re-open upstream industries first, as they provide a large direct and indirect economic boost at a relatively lower cost in terms of further epidemic spreading.

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.

Jennifer Castle, David Hendry, 04 June 2020

The UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act has led to a 34% fall in CO2 emissions by 2019, while real GDP per capita had risen by more than 10% following the crash into the ‘Great Recession’. Can the UK achieve its recent net-zero emissions target by 2050 while still growing? This column describes some speculative routes to such a decarbonised future.

Peter Dolton, 31 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing serious financial problems for UK universities. This column identifies the over-reliance on Chinese students for fee income as the main cause of the impact and considers what steps the government might take to support universities through this crisis.

Cara Pacitti, Richard Hughes, Jack Leslie, Charlie McCurdy, James Smith, Daniel Tomlinson, 12 May 2020

With experts warning that social distancing measures could remain in place for much of this year in the UK, the fiscal pressures faced by the government could well be much more severe than recent official forecasts suggest. Drawing on three scenarios for the economic impact of social distancing lasting for 3, 6 or 12 months, this column looks at the impact on the UK public finances. It suggests that borrowing will rise to historic highs in all three scenarios. This poses liquidity challenges for the government in the near term, and leaves the government more vulnerable to changes in interest rates or inflation in the medium term given far higher debt stocks.

Jack Leslie, Richard Hughes, Charlie McCurdy, Cara Pacitti, James Smith, Daniel Tomlinson, 11 May 2020

The scale of the economic impact of coronavirus is only starting to become clear, but effective government policy responses depend on realistic estimates of the depth and length of the recession. Drawing on theory, experience from past viral outbreaks, and real-time data, this column presents three scenarios for the UK economy over the next five years. Economic outcomes could easily be worse than many current forecasts. Crucially, the duration and strictness of social distancing restrictions will define the total loss in output during the crisis and influence the likely pace of recovery post-crisis.

Dimitris K. Chronopoulos, Marcel Lukas, John O.S. Wilson, 06 May 2020

Since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in January 2020, the UK government has introduced successive public health measures, culminating in late March 2020 with enforced closures of non-essential businesses and social distancing. These measures are significantly affecting UK household incomes and expenditures. This column exploits a large anonymised transaction-level dataset covering Great Britain to examine real-time consumer spending responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and related public policy measures. While there are differences by age, gender, and income level, overall consumer spending declined as the government lockdown becames imminent and has continued to decline since.

Juanita Gonzalez-Uribe, Su Wang, Simeon Djankov, 30 April 2020

Loan guarantees to small businesses are emerging as a main policy response during the COVID-19 crisis. Using evidence from the UK’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme from 2009, this column argues that such policies enable some financially constrained firms to retain workers that otherwise would have been laid off, and whose retention was fundamental in rebuilding the businesses post-crisis. However, less-educated workers in jobs with low training costs are more likely to be laid off, implying that the guarantee policy is regressive. 

Henry Overman, 22 April 2020

The economic crisis caused by COVID-19 will play out unequally across areas. Unfortunately, the unusual nature of this crisis makes its local impacts hard to predict. This complicates attempts to formulate appropriate area-based policy responses. This column focuses on the UK and argues that, in the short run, we will need to target immediate support through existing mechanisms to reach people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the current crisis. Doing this will also help the most vulnerable communities where these people live.

Kilian Rieder, 20 April 2020

Since mid-March 2020, countries have seen consumers panic buying large quantities of groceries in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why does panic buying arise and how may one mitigate its negative consequences? This column examines the Bank of England’s response to financial crises during the 19th century and suggests that a key action is to counter those incentives that turn panic buying into a rational strategy.

Fabio Braggion, Rik Frehen, Emiel Jerphanion, 19 April 2020

How does cheap credit feed into investors’ behaviour? Cheap credit could boost stock prices, even without trading, by lowering the cost of capital. However, it might also enable naïve investors to ride a bubble and lose money. To see what effect prevails, this column collects every stock transaction for three major British companies during the 1720 South Sea Bubble. It finds that loan holders are more likely to buy following high returns, subscribe to overvalued share issues and incur large trading losses.

Giulia Giupponi, Camille Landais, 01 April 2020

Short-time work is a subsidy for temporary reductions in the number of hours worked in firms affected by temporary shocks. Evidence suggests that it can have large positive effects on employment and can be more effective than unemployment insurance or universal transfers. This column discusses how the COVID-19 crisis – with its mandated reduction in hours of work and massive liquidity crunch for firms – is a textbook case for the use of short-time work. Taking into account available evidence and the current situation, it proposes guidelines to effectively implement short-term work.

Thiemo Fetzer, Srinjoy Sen, Pedro Souza, 27 February 2020

Homelessness and precarious living conditions are on the rise across much of the Western world. This column examines the impact of a shock to the affordability of rent in the private sector in the UK, in the form of a cut in housing subsidies for low-income households, on homelessness and insecure living conditions as well as on democratic participation. The findings suggest that the cut was, to a large extent, a false economy. The net fiscal savings for the central government were markedly offset by significantly higher local government spending to meet statutory obligations for prevention of homelessness. The cut also led to widespread distress among benefit claimants, some of whom went into rent arrears and were forcefully displaced from their homes.

Ben Broadbent, Federico Di Pace, Thomas Drechsel, Richard Harrison, Silvana Tenreyro, 26 February 2020

The UK economy has experienced significant macroeconomic adjustments following the 2016 referendum on its withdrawal from the EU. This column documents these macroeconomic adjustments systematically and demonstrates that the effects of the referendum result on the UK economy can be conceptualised as news about a future slowdown in tradable productivity growth.



CEPR Policy Research