National Bureau of Economic Research

Conducting and disseminating non-partisan economic research

Coronavirus Pandemic Research

Calculating the Total Economic and Health Cost of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 240,000 deaths in the United States, a sharp decline in economic activity, anxiety and depression for many individuals, and difficult-to-predict long-term health costs for those who survive serious infections. NBER Research Associates David Cutler and Lawrence Summers of Harvard University translate all of these consequences into economic terms. Their calculations use estimates of the value of a statistical life that federal agencies apply in cost-benefit analysis, as well as estimates of the economic costs of anxiety. Their findings suggest a total cost of roughly $16 trillion, more than three quarters of annual gross domestic product. Cutler describes these results in the video below. An archive of NBER videos on pandemic-related topics may be found here.

Ten NBER working papers distributed this week investigate the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and policy responses to it. Two examine the effects of the pandemic on cross-country economic linkages, one asking whether COVID-19 will reverse the recent trend toward globalization (28115), another exploring the pandemic’s impact on exchange rate volatility (28108). Two studies analyze features of policies designed to restrain the virus, one focusing on contact tracing (28135) and the other on how mobility data can be used to refine social distancing policy (28120). One study reports the relative frequency of optimistic and pessimistic media stories about the pandemic (28110), and another presents survey results on how the pandemic has affected the public’s perception of science and scientists (28112). One study uses data on stock market reactions to vaccine development news to estimate the economic value of an effective pandemic cure (28127). Another examines the operation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and which firms took advantage of it (28114). Yet another examines how the pandemic and policy responses such as stay-at-home rules affected health care utilization (28131). A final study uses geospatial data from cell-phones to analyze the importance of off-campus student interactions as bars and related locations in spreading COVID-19 on the University of Wisconsin campus (28132).

More than 300 NBER working papers have presented pandemic-related research. These papers are open access and have been collected for easy reference. Like all NBER papers, they are circulated for discussion and comment, and have not been peer-reviewedThey may be viewed in reverse chronological order or by topic area.

NBER Offers Graduate and Post-Doctoral Fellowships

The NBER is now accepting applications for 15 fellowships to support dissertation writers and nine post-doctoral fellowships on various topics for the 2021-22 academic year. Here are the details. The deadline for most applications is December 10.

Graduate fellowships support PhD students working on specific topic areas, such as behavioral macroeconomics, energy economics, and work at older ages. These fellowships are funded by federal agencies and private foundations.

Post-doctoral fellowships permit early-career scholars working on a wide variety of topics, including health and aging, long-term fiscal policy, and tax competition, to spend a year at the NBER’s Cambridge office focusing on their research projects. The NBER also sponsors a fellowship for a researcher in any field of economics who is a member of a group that has historically been under-represented in the economics profession.

New Working Group on Race and Stratification in the Economy Launched

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The NBER has launched a Working Group on Race and Stratification in the Economy to explore, document, and disseminate research on the causes and consequences of racial disparities in economic outcomes, and to stimulate research on race in all aspects of economic analysis. Research Associate Trevon Logan, the Hazel C.Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics at The Ohio State University, will serve as the inaugural director. The group will meet twice each year, beginning with a virtual meeting in April 2021.

The working group will take a broad approach to the economics of race, considering the factors that contribute to racial differences in income, wealth, housing, educational attainment, labor market outcomes, economic mobility, and a range of other measures. It will explore economic models of discrimination and social stratification, as well as insights on these issues from other social sciences, and will consider the role of public policies and political institutions in contributing to, and ameliorating, racial differences. More broadly, it will encourage new approaches to economic analysis of race in a variety of settings.

The NBER also has created a new post-doctoral fellowship that will support a year of research by an early-career scholar who is a member of a historically under-represented group in the economics profession, or who is studying issues of diversity in the profession. Further Information may be found at:

From the NBER Reporter

...a free quarterly featuring affiliates writing about their research, program updates, and NBER news

Author(s): Anusha Chari
International financial integration has increasingly exposed capital markets in emerging nations to shocks that originate outside their domestic economies. Theoretical open-economy macro models propose a variety of mechanisms by which global financial conditions are transmitted from developed to emerging markets. Candidate mechanisms include advanced-economy monetary policy spillovers, the risk-bearing capacity of international financial intermediaries, liquidity in...

From the NBER Digest

...a free monthly publication of non-technical summaries of research on topics of broad public interest

Survey data from England show individuals in their 60s and 70s underestimate their likelihood of living to old ages, which could account for limited annuity demand. On reaching retirement, individuals must decide how best to use their savings to provide for the remaining years of their lives. This problem is complicated in part because they do not know to what age they will live. Buying an annuity provides insurance against the possibility of living a longer-than-...

From the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

...a free quarterly summarizing research in the NBER's Retirement and Disability Research Center

The Social Security Administration (SSA) virtually convened its 2020 Retirement and Disability Research Consortium (RDRC) Meeting on August 6th. This year's meeting was organized by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, with participants attending digitally via a platform supported by the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The meeting was organized around thematic panels and featured research funded through the NBER RDRC as well as through the other...
The NBER RDRC is pleased to announce two new projects, funded through the Social Security Administration's Retirement and Disability Research Consortium, that will explore some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Economic Disruption and Social Security Spillovers: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic, researchers Gopi Shah Goda and Emilie Jackson will examine how SSDI applications and Social Security retirement claiming are likely to be affected by the COVID-19...

From the Bulletin on Health

...a free summary of recent NBER Working Papers on health topics, distributed three times a year

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease of the brain that is the leading cause of dementia in the United States, afflicting an estimated five million Americans. As shown in the figure, the prevalence, costs, and human toll of this disease are vast, and expected to increase over time. Given these sobering statistics, Alzheimer’s disease is a critical priority for research and public policy in the United States. In order to encourage new economic research on this...

Featured Working Papers

Comparing estimates of the increase in national income that is attributed to knowledge advance and technical change with spending on research and innovation, Benjamin F. Jones and Lawrence H. Summers conclude that innovation efforts produce social benefits much greater than their investment costs.

The Great Depression caused a sudden and persistent decline in patenting by technological entrepreneurs, but the shock was in part absorbed through a reallocation of inventors into firms, who over the long-run produce patents with greater impact, Tania Babina, Asaf Bernstein, and Filippo Mezzanotti find.

Children whose fathers were eligible by lottery to be drafted into the Vietnam war are more likely to have engaged in substance abuse, started such abuse at a younger age, and have a higher likelihood of delinquency, according to research by Monica Deza and Alvaro Mezza

Paul Gompers, Will Gornall, Steven N. Kaplan, and Ilya A. Strebulaev find that venture capitalists have slowed their investment pace to 71 percent of normal during the pandemic and have devoted more time to guiding the companies in their portfolios through the pandemic.

Encouraged by institutional leaders, interdisciplinary dissertations trended upward in the United States from 2001 through 2016,  but Kevin M. KniffinAndrew S. Hanks, Xuechao Qian, Bo Wang, and Bruce A. Weinberg show that these interdisciplinary dissertators have experienced a salary penalty for their first year after earning the PhD.

In the News

Recent citations of NBER research in the media

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Books & Chapters

Through a partnership with the University of Chicago Press, the NBER publishes the proceedings of four annual conferences as well as other research studies associated with NBER-based research projects.


NBER researchers discuss their work on subjects of wide interest to economists, policymakers, and the general public. Recordings of more-detailed presentations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions at NBER conferences are available on the Lectures page.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 240,000 deaths in the United States, a sharp decline in economic activity,...
Nursing home residents account for more than 35 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. NBER Research...
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented fiscal actions in many nations, as governments have increased spending...
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on the elderly in the United States and other nations,...
The speed and geographic variation of the COVID-19 economic decline has placed a premium on higher-frequency...
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