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Income and COVID 19's Impact on Life Expectancy

research spotlight

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected different subgroups of the population, based on race, ethnicity, and income, in different ways.  In a new study using individual death records from the state of California, NBER Research Associates Janet Currie of Princeton University, Hannes Schwandt of Northwestern University, and Till von Wachter of UCLA, along with several collaborators, document the disparate impact of the pandemic on life expectancy for individuals who reside in locations with different median incomes. This research, which was funded by the National Institute of Aging and
the National Center for Translational Science, finds substantial variation across income strata, with a much larger drop in life expectancy between 2019 and 2021 in low-income than high-income areas. Schwandt summarizes these findings in the video above. NBER maintains an archive of videos on pandemic-related research.

New COVID-19 Working Papers: August 15, 2022

news article

Four new working papers distributed this week report on the economic, health, and related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and public policies that respond to it. One explores the effect of expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic on job-finding and consumer spending (30315), while a second shows that e-commerce platform buyers were less likely to purchase from sellers with Asian-sounding names in the early months of the pandemic (30344).  One documents misperceptions of COVID-19 risks during the first year of the pandemic and offers several explanations for them (30353).  Another analyzes historical inflation dynamics and estimates the permanent and transitory components of the US inflation shock during the pandemic (30357).

More than 585 NBER working papers have addressed various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 Like all NBER papers, they are circulated for discussion and comment, and have not been peer-reviewed. View the papers in reverse chronological order or filter by topic area.

A research summary from the monthly NBER Digest

Working paper figure w30087

The Changing Composition of Sovereign Debt Holdings


National governments that finance their activities by issuing debt must find someone to buy it. The interest rate they must pay to borrow depends on the cost of attracting new buyers, a cost that generally rises along with the outstanding stock of debt. Due in part to government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the aggregate government debt-to-GDP ratio is now at its highest level since 2003. Outstanding government debt now exceeds GDP in advanced economies, and is greater than half of GDP in emerging economies.

In Who Holds Sovereign Debt and Why It Matters (NBER Working Paper 30087) Xiang Fang, Bryan Hardy, and Karen K. Lewis use International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Bank for International Settlements data...

From the NBER Bulletin on Health

Working Paper Figure w29817

Heterogeneous Mental Health Effects of Shocks to Housing Prices


US house prices fell by 34 percent between 2006 and 2012. But the downturn was more severe in some parts of the country than in others. For example, home values in Phoenix and Las Vegas dropped by 46 and 60 percent, respectively. In contrast, house prices in Pittsburgh and Buffalo didn’t fall at all, instead increasing by 5 and 6 percent over this time period.  

How did the overall housing downturn, and the associated Great Recession, affect mental health among older adults? In Economic Crises and Mental Health: Effects of the Great Recession on Older Americans (NBER Working Paper 29817), David M. Cutler and Noémie Sportiche show that consequences varied with financial stability and race. To…

From the NBER Reporter: Research, program, and conference summaries

Figure 1 2022 number 2 Eriksson summary

The Promise of Linked Historical Census Data


Individual records from the 1950 US Census were publicly released on April 1, 2022. Economic historians had been waiting for this day for 10 years. This data source, like the individual-level data from earlier censuses, makes it possible to locate the information reported by a specific person.

I found the records for my grandparents along with those for my mother, who was born in December 1949. They lived in rural Lincoln County, Kentucky. My grandfather, Bernard Camenisch, born in Kentucky to a Swiss father, worked 92 hours the previous week as a dairy farmer. A decade earlier, in the 1940 Census, he was living with his father, also a farmer; he worked 60 hours the week prior to answering that census survey. My grandmother Dorothy was a “sample line respondent,” and so…

From the NBER Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

NBER RDRC Working Paper 21-10 Figure

How Short-Term Private Disability Insurance Affects Public Disability Benefits


Forty percent of US workers have access to employer-provided short-term disability insurance (STDI). This insurance generally pays benefits to disabled workers during the five-month waiting period between disability onset and when Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can commence. By providing income during the waiting period, STDI may encourage more disabled workers to apply for SSDI, leading to more SSDI awards. However, employers who offer STDI have a stronger financial incentive to offer accommodations to disabled workers to help them to remain on the job instead of taking up STDI benefits, which could reduce SSDI applications and awards.

Examining the effect of STDI access on SSDI applications and awards is challenging, since workers with and without STDI access may differ in ways that affect…

From the NBER Bulletin on Entrepreneurship

Working Paper Figure w29532

The Rise of Private Financing for Entrepreneurs


In Private or Public Equity? The Evolving Entrepreneurial Finance Landscape (NBER Working Paper 29532), Michael Ewens and Joan Farre-Mensa survey the changes in the US entrepreneurial finance market over the last two decades. Their study begins by describing the differences between publicly listed and private firms, and then explores how several regulatory, technological, and competitive changes affecting both startups and investors have affected the costs and benefits of going public. The paper emphasizes the growing costs of the disclosures required of public firms, and also observes that major technological changes have reduced the initial capital investment…

Featured Working Papers

Assignment to a high-intensity opioid prescribing physician in a military emergency department increases the probability of long-term opioid use and leads to negative effects on job performance and productivity, according to research by Abby E. Alpert, Steve Schwab, and Benjamin D. Ukert.

Between 1973 and 2018 the number of full-time workers following a four-day work week tripled in the US, an increase of 8 million workers, consistent with similar growth seen in the Netherlands, Germany, and South Korea, Daniel S. Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle find.

The 1883 Pendleton Act, which introduced competitive exams to select certain US federal employees, resulted in the selection of more qualified candidates, but it also reduced the share of lower socioeconomic status individuals who were hired, according to Diana Moreira and Santiago Pérez.

A new measure for CPI headline and core inflation constructed by Marijn A. Bolhuis, Judd N. L. Cramer, and Lawrence H. Summers finds that current inflation levels are much closer to past inflation peaks than official US inflation series would suggest.

Evidence that the “endowment effect” — the phenomenon where owing a good increases one’s valuation of it — inhibits demand for loans which use a borrower’s existing assets as collateral, according to Kevin Carney, Michael Kremer, Xinyue Lin, and Gautam Rao.

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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.

Research Spotlights

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.
Life expectancy vs hh income percentile figure
Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected different subgroups of the population, based on race, ethnicity, and income, in...
COVID sectoral revenue decline figure 03032022
Research Spotlight
The COVID-19 pandemic affected businesses in different industries in disparate ways.  Those in customer contact...
PPP racial disparity figure final 02222022
Research Spotlight
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was one of the central elements of the pandemic stimulus program. It was designed...
substance deaths figure 02042022
Research Spotlight
The number of deaths from drug overdoses and alcohol abuse rose during the first 16 months of the COVID-19 pandemic....
married women's employment figure 01202022
Research Spotlight
Employment in the US declined early in the pandemic, and has remained below its pre-pandemic level as the number of...
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