nep-hea New Economics Papers
on Health Economics
Issue of 2021‒01‒04
twenty-two papers chosen by
Nicolas R. Ziebarth
Cornell University

  1. Time Preferences and Medication Adherence: A Field Experiment with Pregnant Women in South Africa By Christina Gravert; Kai Barron; Mette Trier Damgaard; Lisa Norrgren
  2. Mums Go Online: Is the Internet Changing the Demand for Healthcare? By Sofia Amaral-Garcia; Mattia Nardotto; Carol Propper; Tommaso M. Valletti
  3. How Does Cost-Sharing Impact Spending Growth and Cost-Effective Treatments? Evidence from Deductibles By Claudio Lucarelli; Molly Frean; Aliza S. Gordon; Lynn M. Hua; Mark Pauly
  4. Long-term unemployment subsidies and middle-age disadvantaged workers’ health By José Ignacio Garcia-Pérez; Manuel Serrano-Alarcón; Judit Vall Castelló
  5. Can Unearned Income Make Us Fitter? Evidence from Lottery Wins By Joan Costa-i-Font; Mario Gyori
  6. How Important Is Health Inequality for Lifetime Earnings Inequality? By Roozbeh Hosseini; Karen A. Kopecky; Kai Zhao
  7. The U-shape of Happiness in Scotland By David N.F. Bell; David G. Blanchflower
  8. Happiness and Aging in the United States By David G. Blanchflower; Carol Graham
  9. Job satisfaction over the life course By David G. Blanchflower; Alex Bryson
  10. Do Wealth Shocks Matter for the Life Satisfaction of the Elderly? Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study By Marco Cozzi; Qiushan Li
  11. Taking cover: human capital accumulation in the presence of shocks and health insurance By Font-Gilabert, Paulino
  12. Mobile applications aiming to facilitate immigrants’ societal integration and overall level of integration, health and mental health. Does artificial intelligence enhance outcomes? By Drydakis, Nick
  13. Comparing bad apples to orange soda: Flaws and Errors in an Estimation of Years of Life Lost Associated With School Closures and COVID-19 deaths by Christakis, Van Cleve, and Zimmerman By Meyerowitz-Katz, Gideon; Kashnitsky, Ilya
  14. Global Healthcare Resource Efficiency in the Management of COVID-19 Death and Infection Prevalence Rates By Breitenbach, Marthinus C; Ngobeni, Victor; Aye, Goodness C
  15. Walking the Tightrope: Avoiding a Lockdown While Containing the Virus By Balazs Egert; Yvan Guillemette; Fabrice Murtin; David Turner
  16. Air pollution and mobility in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, what drives the COVID-19 death toll? By Carlos Vladimir Rodríguez-Caballero; J. Eduardo Vera-Valdés
  17. Perceptive risk clusters of European citizens and NPI compliance in face of the covid-19 pandemics By Jacques Bughin; Michele Cincera; Dorota Reykowska; Marcin Zyszkiewicz; Rafal Ohme
  18. Informing the public about a pandemic By Francis de Véricourt,; Huseyin Gurkan,; Shouqiang Wang,
  19. The role of schools in transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus: Quasi-experimental evidence from Germany By von Bismarck-Osten, Clara; Borusyak, Kirill; Schönberg, Uta
  20. COVID-19 in rural Malawi: Perceived risks and economic impacts By Ambler, Kate; Herskowitz, Sylvan; Maredia, Mywish K.; Mockshell, Jonathan
  21. Mandated and Voluntary Social Distancing During The COVID-19 Epidemic: A Review By Sumedha Gupta; Kosali I. Simon; Coady Wing
  22. The Roles of Mobility and Masks in the Spread of COVID-19 By Daniel H. Cooper; Vaishali Garga; Maria Jose Luengo-Prado; Jenny Tang

  1. By: Christina Gravert (CEBI, Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen); Kai Barron (WZB Berlin); Mette Trier Damgaard (Department of Economics and Business Economics & TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research, Aarhus University); Lisa Norrgren (Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg)
    Abstract: The effectiveness of health recommendations and treatment plans depends on the extent to which individuals follow them. For the individual, medication adherence involves an inter-temporal trade-off between expected future health benefits and immediate effort costs. Therefore examining time preferences may help us to understand why some people fail to follow health recommendations and treatment plans. In this paper, we use a simple, real-effort task implemented via text message to elicit the time preferences of pregnant women in South Africa. We find evidence that high discounters are significantly less likely to report to adhere to the recommendation of taking daily iron supplements daily during pregnancy. There is some indication that time-inconsistency also negatively affects adherence. Together our results suggest that measuring time preferences could help predict medication adherence and thus be used to improve preventive health care measures.
    Keywords: time preferences, medication adherence, field experiment
    JEL: C93 D91 I12
    Date: 2020–12–14
  2. By: Sofia Amaral-Garcia; Mattia Nardotto; Carol Propper; Tommaso M. Valletti
    Abstract: We study the effect of internet diffusion on childbirth procedures performed in England between 2000 and 2011. We exploit an identification strategy based on geographical discontinuities in internet access generated by technological factors. We show that broadband internet access increased Cesarean-sections: mothers living in areas with better internet access are 2.5 percent more likely to have a C-section than mothers living in areas with worse internet access. The effect is driven by first-time mothers who are 6 percent more likely to obtain an elective C-section. The increased C-section rate is not accompanied by changes in health care outcomes of mothers and newborns. Health care costs increased with no corresponding medical benefits for patients. Heterogeneity analysis shows that mothers with low income and low education are those more affected: thanks to the internet, they progressively close the C-section gap with mothers with higher income and education. We show evidence documenting the growing importance of the internet as a source of health related information, and we argue that patient’s access to online information is changing the relationship between health care providers and patients.
    Keywords: ICT, broadband internet, health care, Cesarean-section
    JEL: D80 I12 L82 L86
    Date: 2020
  3. By: Claudio Lucarelli; Molly Frean; Aliza S. Gordon; Lynn M. Hua; Mark Pauly
    Abstract: The growth of health care spending has been a longstanding policy concern. Over the years, several innovations have been proposed to lower levels of health care spending; however, their impact has been limited and not sustained over time. Costly new technology, while often an improvement to existing care, has been identified as a principal driver of health care spending growth. Recent literature has shown that high deductible health plans (HDHP) can have an immediate impact on levels of health care spending, but their medium- and long-run effects on spending growth remain unknown. In this paper, we use multiple-employer-group claims data from a large national insurer to (i) study whether HDHPs reduce the growth in spending over four years compared to lower deductible alternatives; and (ii) explore the mechanisms behind any reductions in growth by looking at whether HDHPs reduce the use of low- vs. high-value treatments. We find that HDHPs have a limited effect on spending growth, with a statistically significant reduction observed only for prescription drugs. HDHPs are not associated with significantly lower growth in spending on highly cost-effective medicines in a sample of drugs but do reduce spending growth for less cost-effective drugs.
    JEL: I11 I13
    Date: 2020–11
  4. By: José Ignacio Garcia-Pérez; Manuel Serrano-Alarcón; Judit Vall Castelló
    Abstract: We estimate the labour market and health effects of a long-term unemployment (LTU) subsidy targeted to middle aged disadvantaged workers. In order to do so, we exploit a Spanish reform introduced in July 2012 that increased the age eligibility threshold to receive the subsidy from 52 to 55. Using a within-cohort identification strategy, we show that men ineligible for the subsidy were more likely to leave the labour force. In terms of health outcomes, although we do not report impacts on hospitalizations when considering the whole sample, we do find significant results when we separate the analysis by main diagnosis and gender. More specifically, we show a reduction by 12.9% in hospitalizations due to injuries as well as a drop by 2 percentage points in the probability of a mental health diagnosis for men who were eligible for the LTU subsidy. Our results highlight the role of long-term unemployment benefits as a protecting device for the health (both physical and mental) of middle aged, low educated men who are in a disadvantaged position in the labour market.
    Date: 2020–12
  5. By: Joan Costa-i-Font; Mario Gyori
    Abstract: Although lower income is associated with overweight (and obesity), such an association is explained by a number of other confounding effects such as omitted variables (e.g., time preferences) explaining that income effect on overweight. We study the effect of unearned income shocks resulting from a lottery win (windfall income) on both overweight (alongside obesity and body mass index) distribution. We draw upon longitudinal data from the United Kingdom, a country where about half of a population plays the lottery. Our results suggest no evidence of contemporaneous effects of income on overweight, but a significant lagged effect. We find a reduction in overweight 12 months after a lottery win. A 10,000-sterling win reduces overweight by 2-3 percentage points. Furthermore, we document a nonlinear effect up to 36 months after the lottery win, suggesting that small wins increase overweight and large wins reduce it. The effect of a lottery win varies depending on an individual’s working hours and educational attainment. A lottery win among low education individuals decreases the risk of overweight.
    Keywords: obesity, overweight, income, windfall income, lottery wins, body mass index (BMI)
    JEL: I12 I18 J30
    Date: 2020
  6. By: Roozbeh Hosseini (University of Georgia); Karen A. Kopecky (Emory University); Kai Zhao (University of Connecticut)
    Abstract: Using a dynamic panel approach, we provide empirical evidence that negative health shocks reduce earnings. The effect is primarily driven by the participation margin and is concentrated in less educated and poor health individuals. We build a dynamic, gen-eral equilibrium, lifecycle model that is consistent with these findings. In the model, individuals, whose health is risky and heterogeneous, choose to either work, or not work and apply for social security disability insurance (SSDI). Health impacts individuals’ productivity, SSDI access, disutility from work, mortality, and medical expenses. Cali-brating the model to the United States, we find that health inequality is an important source of lifetime earnings inequality: nearly 29 percent of the variation in lifetime earnings at age 65 is due to the fact that Americans face risky and heterogeneous life-cycle health profiles. A decomposition exercise reveals that the primary reason why individuals in the United States in poor health have low lifetime earnings is because they have a high probability of obtaining SSDI benefits. In other words, the SSDI program is an important contributor to lifetime earnings inequality. Despite this, we show that it is ex ante welfare improving and, if anything, should be expanded.
    Keywords: earnings, health, frailty, inequality, disability, dynamic panel estimation, life-cycle models
    JEL: D52 D91 E21 H53 I13 I18
    Date: 2020–12
  7. By: David N.F. Bell; David G. Blanchflower
    Abstract: We examine well-being in Scotland using micro data from the Scottish Health Survey and the UK Annual Population Surveys. We find evidence of a midlife low in Scotland in well-being at around age fifty using a variety of measures of both happiness and unhappiness. We confirm that higher consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with higher levels of happiness in Scotland. We compare this with evidence for England from the Health Survey of England. The decline in well-being between youth and midlife is comparable in size to the loss of a spouse or of a job and around half of the fall in well-being in the COVID-19 lockdown. We also find a mid-life peak in suicides in Scotland. Despite higher mortality and suicide rates in Scotland than in England, paradoxically we find that the Scots are happier than the English. Northern Ireland is the happiest of the four home countries. We also find evidence of U-shapes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the mid to late forties.
    JEL: I31
    Date: 2020–11
  8. By: David G. Blanchflower; Carol Graham
    Abstract: The past decade has brought increasing concern, in countries all over the world, of declines in mental health and well-being. Across countries, chronic depression and suicide rates peak in midlife. In the U.S., deaths of despair are most likely to occur in these years, and the patterns are robustly associated with unhappiness and stress. There is also a less-known relationship between well-being and longevity among the elderly, particularly for those over age 70. In this paper, we analyze several different data sets for the U.S. and provide extensive evidence on the middle age patterns, how they differ across the married and unmarried, and review new work on the elderly. The relationship between well-being and aging has a robust association with trends that can ruin lives and shorten life spans. It applies to much of the world’s population and links to behaviors and outcomes that merit the attention of scholars and policymakers alike.
    JEL: I31 J01
    Date: 2020–11
  9. By: David G. Blanchflower (Dartmouth College. University of Glasgow. GLO. Bloomberg. NBER); Alex Bryson (UCL Social Research Institute. NIESR. IZA)
    Abstract: We examine the relationship between union membership and job satisfaction over the life-course using data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) tracking all those born in Great Britain in a single week in March in 1958 through to age 55 (2013). Data from immigrants as well as non-respondents to the original 1958 Perinatal Mortality Study (PMS) are added in later years. Conditioning on one’s social class at birth, together with one’s education and employment status, we find there is a significant negative correlation between union membership and job satisfaction that is apparent across the life-course. Lagged union membership status going back many years is negatively correlated with current job satisfaction, though its effects become statistically non-significant when conditioning on current union membership status. These results provide a different perspective to longitudinal studies showing short-term positive responses to switches in membership status. They are consistent with earlier work showing that this cohort of workers, and others before them, have persistently lower job satisfaction as union members compared to their non-union counterparts.
    Keywords: Union membership; job satisfaction; life-course; birth cohort; National Child Development Survey (NCDS).
    JEL: J28 J50 J51
    Date: 2020–12–01
  10. By: Marco Cozzi; Qiushan Li (Department of Economics, University of Victoria)
    Abstract: This note studies the determinants of life satisfaction for the elderly and near-elderly in the U.S., using data from the Health and Retirement Study. The econometric analysis exploits the 2008-09 financial crisis as a source of exogenous variation in wealth, caused by a long-lasting decrease in asset prices. Although absolute changes in wealth are not found to systematically affect individuals' well-being, losing 60% or more of the pre-crisis wealth negatively impacted measures of life satisfaction.
    Keywords: Wealth, Uninsurable shocks, Life Satisfaction, Subjective Well-Being
    Date: 2020–12–06
  11. By: Font-Gilabert, Paulino
    Abstract: Using the expansion of a large-scale health insurance program in Mexico and variation in local rainfall levels, I estimate whether the program-induced increase in healthcare coverage protected the educational attainment of primary school children in the event of adverse climatic shocks. Results show that the universalization of healthcare mitigated the negative effect of atypical rainfall on test scores, particularly in more marginalized and rural areas. An analysis of the mechanisms at play shows a reduced incidence of sickness among children, lower demand for their time, and higher stability in household consumption among program-eligible families exposed to rainfall shocks.
    Date: 2020–12–15
  12. By: Drydakis, Nick
    Abstract: Using panel data on immigrant populations from European, Asian and African countries the study estimates positive associations between the number of mobile applications in use aiming to facilitate immigrants’ societal integration (m-Integration) and increased level of integration (Ethnosizer), good overall health (EQ-VAS) and mental health (CESD-20). It is estimated that the patterns are gender sensitive. In addition, it is found that m-Integration applications in relation to translation and voice assistants, public services, and medical services provide the highest returns on immigrants’ level of integration, health/mental health status. For instance, translation and voice assistant applications are associated with a 4% increase in integration and a 0.8% increase in good overall health. Moreover, m-Integration applications aided by artificial intelligence (AI) are associated with increased health/mental health and integration levels among immigrants. We indicate that AI by providing customized search results, peer reviewed e-learning, professional coaching on pronunciation, real-time translations, and virtual communication for finding possible explanations for health conditions might bring better quality services facilitating immigrants’ needs. This is the first known study to introduce the term ‘m-Integration’, quantify associations between applications, health/mental health and integration for immigrants, and assess AI’s role in enhancing the aforementioned outcomes.
    Keywords: Mobile Applications,m-Integration,m-Health,Artificial Intelligence,Integration,Immigrants,Refugees,Health,Mental Health
    JEL: O3 O31 I1 J15
    Date: 2020
  13. By: Meyerowitz-Katz, Gideon; Kashnitsky, Ilya (Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute)
    Abstract: We are writing this openly-published letter to express deep concerns regarding the paper recently published in JAMA Network Open: Estimation of US Children’s Educational Attainment and Years of Life Lost Associated With Primary School Closures During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic The paper by Christakis, Van Cleve, and Zimmerman (2020, abbrev. CVZ) is built upon multiple critically flawed assumptions, obvious misuse of the standard analytical tools, and clear mistakes in study design. Additionally, the analysis presented contains crucial mathematical and statistical errors that completely revert the main results, sufficient that if the estimates had been calculated according to the declared methodology, the results would completely contradict the stated conclusions and policy recommendations. These are not idle criticisms. This study has received enormous public attention, and its results immediately appeared in discussions of public health policies around schools worldwide. The central question is resolving an evidence base for the inevitable trade-off between (a) the very real harms of missed education provoked by policies that decrease viral spread vs. (b) the resumption of education as a social good which increases viral spread. This is an incredibly important public health question, and it demands careful cost-benefit analysis. To that end, this paper adds no usable evidence whatsoever.
    Date: 2020–12–04
  14. By: Breitenbach, Marthinus C; Ngobeni, Victor; Aye, Goodness C
    Abstract: In this paper, we use a novel DEA approach, developed by You and Yan (2011), which accounts for both desirable outputs (recovered cases) and undesirable outputs (infections and deaths), to analyse the technical efficiency of the health systems of 36 most infected countries during the first 11 months since the COVID-19 outbreak. The average technical efficiency scores across the 3 Models is 52%. Specifically, 6 of the 36 (17%) countries in our sample largely used tests, doctors and health spending efficiently in managing the COVID-19 case-mortality and prevalence rates. The remaining 30 DMUs used their available resources inefficiently. Developing countries performed better than developed nations who were inefficient. Therefore, most countries literally “threw” resources at fighting the pandemic, thereby probably raising inefficiency through wasted resource use. The study also showed that developed countries could also draw lessons from developing countries in the management of pandemics. The latter countries mostly face pandemics on a daily basis, therefore, have developed strategies to manage them.
    Keywords: Pandemic; COVID-19; Death rates; Infection rates; Recoveries; Data Envelopment Analysis, Healthcare systems efficiency; Technical Efficiency; Undesirable outputs
    JEL: C67 D22 H32
    Date: 2020–12–10
  15. By: Balazs Egert; Yvan Guillemette; Fabrice Murtin; David Turner
    Abstract: Empirical work described in this paper explains the daily evolution of the reproduction rate, R, and mobility for a large sample of countries, in terms of containment and public health policies. This is with a view to providing insight into the appropriate policy stance as countries prepare for a potentially protracted period characterised by new infection waves. While a comprehensive package of containment measures may be necessary when the virus is widespread and can have a large effect on reducing R, they also have effect on mobility and, by extension, economic activity. A wide-ranging package of public health policies – with an emphasis on comprehensive testing, tracing and isolation, but also including mask-wearing and policies directed at vulnerable groups, especially those in care homes – offer the best approach to avoiding a full lockdown while containing the spread of the virus. Such policies may, however, need to be complemented by selective containment measures (such as restricting large public events and international travel or localised lockdowns) both to contain local outbreaks and because implementing some of the recommended public health policies may be difficult to achieve or have unacceptable social costs.
    Keywords: Covid-19, lockdown, non-pharmaceutical interventions, mobility
    JEL: C50 H10 H12 I18
    Date: 2020
  16. By: Carlos Vladimir Rodríguez-Caballero (Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology (ITAM) and CREATES); J. Eduardo Vera-Valdés (Aalborg University and CREATES)
    Abstract: This paper analyzes the relation between air pollution exposure and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area. We test if short- and long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with a higher number of deaths due to the pandemic. Our results show that long-term exposure to particle matter of ten micrometers and smaller are associated with a higher death toll due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, in the short-term, the effect of air pollution on the number of deaths is less pronounced. Once we control for the short-term commonality among municipalities, contemporaneous air pollution exposure is no longer significant. Moreover, we show that the extracted unobservable common factor is highly correlated to mobility. Thus, our results show that mobility seems to be the main driver behind the number of deaths in the short-term. These results are particularly revealing given that the Metropolitan Area did not experience a decrease in air pollution during COVID- 19 inspired lockdowns. Thus, this paper highlights the importance of implementing policies to reduce mobility and air pollution to mitigate health risks due to the pandemic. Mobility constraints can reduce the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the short-term, while pollution policies can reduce health risks in the long-term.
    Keywords: COVID-19, Pollution, Morbidity, Spreading, Mobility
    JEL: Q53 Q28 C21 C23
    Date: 2020–12–16
  17. By: Jacques Bughin; Michele Cincera; Dorota Reykowska; Marcin Zyszkiewicz; Rafal Ohme
    Abstract: Despite promising announcements on an effective vaccine, the control of the covid-19 pandemic is critically dependent on the maximal compliance of citizens to a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI for short). We use statistical clustering to partition European citizens with regards to their perceptive risks and social attitudes during the first wave of the covid-19 pandemic and find ten segments to predict, both the extent and mix of protective behaviors adopted. Those segments demonstrate a clear divide in the population, with on one extreme, a segment (standing for 8% of the population) that is self-centered and exhibits low self-risk perception as well as low NPI compliance. The other extreme is composed of a segment (11% of the population) that is more socially oriented, and quite responsive to all protective measures.As data are survey-based, we adjust responses based on information gap (by reaction time, RT, measurement) of both worry expression and NPI compliance, to confirm the robustness of our results. Further, we extend the notion of worries to be not only health-related but to include financial risk (like losing a job) as well as psychological worries (e.g. feeling alone, or being unable to meet with family and friends), as they prove to drive different NPI behaviors among the population.
    Keywords: Covid-19 pandemics; Europe; Clustering; Non-pharmaceutical interventions
    JEL: I12 J22 J23 J33
    Date: 2020–12
  18. By: Francis de Véricourt, (ESMT European School of Management and Technology); Huseyin Gurkan, (ESMT European School of Management and Technology); Shouqiang Wang, (Naveen Jindal School of Management, The University of Texas at Dallas)
    Abstract: This paper explores how governments may efficiently inform the public about an epidemic to induce compliance with their confinement measures. Using an information design framework, we find that governments have an incentive to either downplay or exaggerate the severity of the epidemic if the government heavily prioritizes the economy over population health or vice versa. Importantly, we find that the level of economic inequality in the population has an effect on these distortions. The more unequal the disease's economic impact on the population is, the less the government exaggerates and the more it downplays the severity of the epidemic. When the government weighs the economy and population health sufficiently equally, however, the government should always be fully transparent about the severity of the epidemic.
    Keywords: Public health, epidemic control, information design, strategic behavior
    Date: 2020–12–15
  19. By: von Bismarck-Osten, Clara; Borusyak, Kirill; Schönberg, Uta
    Abstract: This paper considers the role of school closures in the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. To isolate the impact of the closures from other containment measures and identify a causal effect, we exploit variation in the start and end dates of the summer school and fall holiday across the 16 federal states in Germany. Leveraging a difference-in-differences design with staggered adoption, we show that neither the summer closures nor the closures in the fall have had any significant containing effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among children or any spill-over effect on older generations. We also do not find any evidence that schools returning to full capacity after the summer holidays increased infections among children or adults. Instead, we find the number of children infected increased during the last weeks of the summer holiday and decreased in the first weeks after schools reopen, a pattern we attribute to travel returnees and increased testing.
    Keywords: Covid Economics,School Closures,Public Health
    JEL: I10 I18 I28
    Date: 2020
  20. By: Ambler, Kate; Herskowitz, Sylvan; Maredia, Mywish K.; Mockshell, Jonathan
    Abstract: Malawi reported its first case of COVID-19 in April and declared a national emergency. Schools, bars and restaurants were closed, international flights suspended, and the economy faced considerable disruptions: quarterly growth projections from July were cut by more than 60% (Saldarriaga Noel et al. 2020). While still concerning, compared to other countries and other parts of the world, the spread of this disease in Malawi has been relatively modest with 5,951 confirmed cases and 184 COVID-19 linked deaths as of November 8, 2020. After accelerating rates of infection in June and July, the rates have decreased over the last two months. In response, there has been a partial return to normalcy, marked by easing COVID-19 restrictions and the reopening of schools at the beginning of September, even while the future trajectory of the disease remains unknown.
    Keywords: MALAWI, SOUTHERN AFRICA, AFRICA SOUTH OF SAHARA, AFRICA, Coronavirus, coronavirus disease, Coronavirinae, COVID-19, rural areas, economic impact, risk
    Date: 2020
  21. By: Sumedha Gupta; Kosali I. Simon; Coady Wing
    Abstract: For much of 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic upended social and economic life globally. In an effort to reduce COVID-19 risks in the U.S., state and local governments issued many recommendations and regulations to induce social distancing, adding to voluntary reductions in interpersonal contact. The responses to the epidemic helped contain spread, but also lead to high unintended societal costs. In the summer months, states took steps to revive the economy and lift social distancing regulations. However, as many epidemiologists expected, the scale of the epidemic has expanded very rapidly in the fall. In the week of October 14, the US generated around 57,000 new COVID-19 cases and 700 deaths each day. By November 15, the country was generating about 151,000 new cases and 1,200 deaths per day. These rapid increases in cases and deaths raise concerns about the capacity of local healthcare systems around the country. State governments are once again facing difficult choices about whether and how to use policies to address the spread of the virus. The incoming Biden-Harris administration faces an important challenge in trying to manage the epidemic as well as a large scale vaccination campaign. Although the epidemic is less than a year old, it has generated a huge volume of research by economists, epidemiologists, and others. This body of work may help inform policy decisions facing society in the coming months. In this paper, we make five broad contributions. First, we provide a concise review of economic and social science research on mobility patterns, labor market outcomes, consumer behavior, and population health during the first phase of the epidemic. Second, we sketch a simple microeconomic model that may be useful considering the determinants of social distancing and the role of different policy instruments in promoting distancing. Third, we present a simple typology of the policies that were used at the state and county levels during the closure and re-opening phases of the epidemic in the U.S.. Fourth, we review a collection of new data sources that have played an important role in monitoring and analyzing population behavior this year. Fifth, we present results from event study regressions that try to disentangle private vs. policy-induced changes in mobility patterns during the early part of the epidemic.
    JEL: I0
    Date: 2020–11
  22. By: Daniel H. Cooper; Vaishali Garga; Maria Jose Luengo-Prado; Jenny Tang
    Abstract: This policy brief analyzes the effects of COVID-19 mitigation policies, those that restrict movement and activity and those that advocate public health best practices. The analysis uses US state-level data to estimate the effects of mobility, mask mandates, and compliance with these mandates on the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. A one-standard-deviation increase in mobility is associated with an 11 to 20 basis points greater rate of growth in case counts; a mask mandate can offset about half of this increase. Slower growth in case counts ultimately translates into slower growth in death counts. Mask mandates are more effective in states where compliance with those mandates is higher. Our estimates imply that total infections in the United States would have been 46.5 to 66.2 percent lower than they were on November 15 if mobility had remained fixed at its May 15 level. Given the actual mobility level, if a national mask mandate had been enacted on May 15, the case count would have been 26.4 to 34.3 percent lower than it was on November 15. This means that a national mask mandate potentially could have offset as many as 74 percent of the additional COVID-19 cases associated with increases in mobility.
    Keywords: mobility; mask mandates; mask wearing; COVID-19 cases and deaths; COVID-19
    Date: 2020–12–18

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