7 New Studies of Economic Impact
of COVID-19 and Policy Responses

All NBER papers related to COVID-19 are open-access and have been collected for easy reference. View them in reverse chronological order or by topic area.

Research Associate Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago describes his research with colleague Chad Syverson suggesting that consumer concern about COVID-19 exposure was more important than state lockdown provisions in driving down retail sales in March and April 2020. Watch the video here.

Seven NBER working papers distributed this week examine the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic along with the actual or potential consequences of public and private actions to combat it.

The papers range widely in the subjects they address. Two study testing, one the design of multi-person virus testing protocols (27457) and the other optimal test design when individuals adjust their behavior in response to the availability of testing (27483). Other studies examine cross-country differences in the macroeconomic policy response to the pandemic (27461), describe the impact of the pandemic on small businesses in the US (27462), investigate the use of high-frequency data to track the pandemic-related decline in economic activity (27482), summarize the link between age and overall optimism or pessimism about resolution of the pandemic (27494), and draw on the experience of worker absenteeism during the 1918 Spanish flu to draw inferences for reopening policies today (27495).

More than 175 NBER working papers issued since mid-March have reported on pandemic-related research.

The NBER Digest

Why Corporate Payouts Have Soared Since 2000:
American Firms Have Made More, and Borrowed Less

Since the turn of the century, American firms have spent three times more on share buy-backs and dividend payments as they did in the three preceding decades. An analysis featured in the July edition of The NBER Digest explores the how and why. Also featured in the July issue of the Digest are studies of health care pricing after hospital mergers, cross-border investment statistics, mortality impacts of ride hailing, pandemic-related unemployment benefits, and economic impacts of the lockdown.
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New NBER Research

10 July 2020

Environmental Markets and Environmental Justice

Since the 2013 introduction of California’s carbon market, the world’s second largest, thedisparity in pollution exposure between disadvantaged and other communities has fallen by 21 to 30 percent, according to a study by Danae Hernandez-Cortes and Kyle C. Meng

9 July 2020

Cigarette Taxes and Smoking in the Long Run

Higher cigarette taxes experienced between the ages of 12 and 17 are associated with substantial reductions in smoking participation and intensity among adults in their 20s through mid-60s Andrew I. Friedson and Daniel I. Rees discover.

8 July 2020

In-Person Voting and COVID-19 Infections in Wisconsin

Chad D. Cotti, Bryan Engelhardt, Joshua Foster, Erik T. Nesson, and Paul S. Niekamp find a statistically and economically significant association between in-person voting in Wisconsin’s April 7 election and the spread of COVID-19 two to three weeks later.
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2020 NBER Virtual Summer Institute

The NBER Summer Institute is a collection of more than 50 distinct research meetings, on a wide range of topics, taking place between July 6 and July 25. Most meetings are being live-streamed on the NBER YouTube channel. The schedule of meetings may be found here. The live-stream URLs are assigned each day by YouTube, and they will be posted as soon as they are available here.

The NBER Reporter

Exploring the Changes that Digitization Has Brought
to Many Facets of Business, Media, and Personal Life

The new edition of the quarterly NBER Reporter features a review of research in the framework of the NBER’s decade-long project on the Economics of Digitization. Also in this issue of the Reporter, NBER research associates write about their explorations of behavioral biases among analysts and investors, health care delivery in conditions of uncertainty, tax credit impacts on corporate behavior, and medical spending and savings in elderly households.
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Bulletin on Health

What Can We Learn About COVID-19 Infection Rates
and Infection Fatality Rates Without Randomized Testing?

The summer issue of the Bulletin on Health features two studies that introduce methods for using currently available information to better understand COVID-19 infection rates and the implied infection fatality rates. One paper generates upper and lower bounds on the rates of COVID-19 infection under minimal assumptions, and finds that these bounds are necessarily wide, due to the small proportion of the population that has been tested. The second paper leverages additional assumptions and data, such as travel patterns from the virus epicenters, to infer infection rates. Although the studies take different approaches, they both indicate that infection fatality rates are considerably lower than the fatality rates among confirmed COVID-19 cases. Also featured in this issue of the free Bulletin on Health are a study of the long-term impacts of OxyContin’s reformulation on fatal drug overdoses, a study of the role of Medicaid coverage in reducing infant mortality during flu pandemics, and a profile of NBER research associate Doug Almond.
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Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

The Effects of Sick Pay Mandates

Fewer than half of low-income and part-time workers have access to paid [sick?] leave. In the absence of federal action, numerous states and localities have enacted sick pay mandates. A study summarized in the current issue of the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability finds that following the introduction of a mandate, coverage rises by 13 percentage points, from an initial level of 66 percent overall. Also in this issue: a summary of how student loan forgiveness affects disability insurance applications, a study of how bill timing affects low-income and aged households, and a feature on the NBER Retirement and Disability Research Center’s Training Fellowship program.
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