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Panelists Explore Impact of Rising Government Borrowing
Most developed nations have adopted deficit-financed programs of economic stimulus in response to the COVID-19 recession. In the United States, the ratio of the national debt to gross national product is projected to exceed 100 percent this year, nearly three times the level of 15 years ago. Over the same period, real interest rates have declined, reducing the burden of servicing a given level of public debt. Three panelists at the NBER’s 36th Annual Conference on Macroeconomics on April 8 offered insights on the effects of rising debt levels on capital markets and long-term economic growth. Carmen Reinhart of Harvard University and NBER, who is currently chief economist of the World Bank, Ricardo Reis of the London School of Economics, and Lawrence Summers of Harvard University and NBER, presented their perspectives and outlined dimensions on which current policy developments are raising new research issues. The panel, which was moderated by Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago and NBER, may be viewed here.
Optimal Vaccine Prioritization
As vaccines to protect against SARS-CoV-2 have become increasingly available in the U.S. and other nations, how to prioritize different groups for vaccination has become a key question. Vaccine roll-outs proceed more quickly when they are less targeted by age group or other risk factors. In addition, the cost of slower vaccine distribution, in COVID-19 cases and deaths, depends on whether other pandemic mitigation measures, such as mask-wearing mandates and social distancing protocols, are sustained throughout the vaccination campaign or loosened as vaccination levels rise. NBER affiliates Nikhil Agarwal and Parag Pathak, and Andrew Komo and Chetan Patel, all of MIT, and M. Utku Unver of Boston College, analyze the trade-offs between vaccine targeting and COVID-19-related mortality, considering in particular the impact of other policies on the optimal policy. They find that the cost of shifting from a targeted to a faster vaccine roll-out is greater when other mitigation measures are relaxed. Agarwal summarizes their findings in the video below. An archive of NBER videos on pandemic-related topics may be found here.
Three NBER working papers distributed this week report on the economic, health, and related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, or on the impact of public policies that are designed to respond to it. One estimates the effect of information campaigns that encourage social distancing by conveying information about the extent of local support for such public health practices (28651). A second investigates the fiscal strain that states have faced as a result of rising Medicaid enrollments that have been associated with households' loss of income during the pandemic (28670). The third explores the impact of the pandemic on rents and real estate values in urban areas, and in particular on the price gradient associated with proximity to the central business district (28675).
More than 390 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 them in reverse chronological order or by topic area.
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Featured Working Papers
When a hospital is a co-owner of a skilled nursing facility, a 1 percent increase in a patient’s expected profitability to that facility increases by 2.5 percent the probability that a hospital self-refers the patient to that facility, David M. Cutler, Leemore Dafny, David C. Grabowski, Steven Lee, and Christopher Ody find.
Children of low-wealth households increase financial transfers to their parents following adverse shocks, and children in both high- and low-wealth households increase their provision of informal care to parents following a wide range of adverse shocks, according to a study by Jessamyn Schaller and Chase S. Eck.
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