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Summary

The Epidemic Within the Pandemic: Drivers of Overdose Deaths During Covid-19
Author(s):
Janet Currie, Princeton University and NBER
Molly Schnell, Northwestern University and NBER
Hannes Schwandt, Northwestern University and NBER
Jonathan Zhang, McMaster University
The Long-Term Impact of the COVID-19 Unemployment Shock on Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates
Author(s):
Francesco Bianchi, Duke University and NBER
Giada Bianchi, Harvard Medical School
Dongho Song, Johns Hopkins University
Abstract:

Bianchi, Bianchi, and Song adopt a time series approach to investigate the historical relation between unemployment, life expectancy, and mortality rates. They fit Vector-autoregressions for the overall US population and for groups identified based on gender and race. The researchers use their results to assess the long-run effects of the COVID-19 economic recession on mortality and life expectancy. Bianchi, Bianchi, and Song estimate the size of the COVID-19-related unemployment shock to be between 2 and 5 times larger than the typical unemployment shock, depending on race and gender, resulting in a significant increase in mortality rates and drop in life expectancy. They also predict that the shock will disproportionately affect African-Americans and women, over a short horizon, while the effects for white men will unfold over longer horizons. These figures translate in more than 0.8 million additional deaths over the next 15 years.

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This paper was distributed as Working Paper 28304, where an updated version may be available.

Social Distancing During a Pandemic: The Role of Friends
Author(s):
Michael Bailey, Facebook
Drew M. Johnston, Harvard University
Martin Koenen, Harvard University
Theresa Kuchler, New York University and NBER
Dominic Russel, New York University
Johannes Stroebel, New York University and NBER
Abstract:

Bailey, Johnston, Koenen, Kuchler, Russel, and Stroebel show that social network exposure to COVID-19 cases shapes individuals' beliefs and behaviors concerning the coronavirus. They use de-identified data from Facebook to document that individuals with friends in areas with worse COVID-19 outbreaks reduce their mobility more than otherwise similar individuals with friends in less affected areas. The effects are quantitatively large and long-lasting: a one standard deviation increase in friend-exposure to COVID-19 cases in March 2020 results in a 1.2 percentage point increase in the probability of staying home on a given day through at least the end of May 2020. As the pandemic progresses--and the characteristics of individuals with the highest friend-exposure vary--changes in friend-exposure continue to drive changes in social distancing behavior, ruling out many unobserved effects as drivers of their results. The researchers also show that individuals with higher friend-exposure to COVID-19 are more likely to publicly post in support of social distancing measures and less likely to be members of groups advocating to "reopen" the economy. These findings suggest that friends can influence individuals' beliefs about the risks of the disease and thereby induce them to engage in mitigating public health behavior.

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The Value of Communication During a Pandemic
Author(s):
Francis Annan, Georgia State University
Belinda Archibong, Columbia University
Abstract:

Annan and Archibong show that communication interventions - which have become globally pervasive during the COVID-19 pandemic - promote individuals' consumption and psychological well-being. Partnering with a major telecommunication company, they field communication programs that provide either a "lump-sum mobile phone calling credit" or "monthly tranches of mobile phone calling credit" to a nationally representative set of low-income adults in Ghana during the crises. Individuals' inability to make unexpected calls, unexpected need to borrow SOS airtime, and to seek digital loans decreased dramatically relative to a control group. As a result, the
programs led to a significant decrease in mental distress (-9.8%) and the likelihood of severe mental distress by -2.7 percentage points (quarter the mean prevalence), with null impact on consumption expenditure. Monthly mobile credits are more likely than lump-sum mobile credits to "sustain" larger impacts, suggesting that individuals may face time inconsistency and/or social pressure problems. The researchers emphasize the value of communication and need for many installments of communication transfers during pandemics.

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Pandemic Protocols, Native Health: Health Care Access from American Indian Reservations During COVID-19
Author(s):
Randall Akee, University of California, Los Angeles and NBER
Luis E. Quintero, Johns Hopkins University
Emilia Simeonova, Johns Hopkins University and NBER
Abstract:

The direct health effects of COVID-19 have been devastating for American Indians, with death rates over 1.5 times higher than for non-Hispanic whites. Further, access to health care and facilities was limited for many reservation-based households even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Randall Akee, Luis E. Quintero, and Emilia Simeonova estimate the effect of imposing and lifting lockdowns on utilization of different health care facilities by individuals residing on and off of American Indian reservations during the COVID-19 pandemic. They measure visits and visits characteristics like duration and distances traveled, to healthcare facilities at the census tract level for all US counties, and compare the patterns on and off reservations. The researchers find that lockdowns reduced the number and duration of visits to health care facilities for both groups (on and off-reservations). Overall, the response to NPIs from reservation dwellers was weaker. This could stem from lower elasticities of demand due to a lower share of elective services in the total healthcare usage of Native Americans, as well as to lower availability of services. Upon lifting of lockdowns, some types of facilities show catching up behavior when re-openings happen, suggesting that elective healthcare had been delayed. This is weaker on reservations, again evidence of lower elective usage. Overall, healthcare facilities show less than full adjustment upon reopening, indicating voluntary social distance outlives lockdowns.

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Caregiving in a Pandemic: COVID-19 and the Well-being of Family Caregivers over 55 in the United States
Author(s):
Yulya Truskinovsky, Wayne State University
Lindsay Kobayashi, University of Michigan
Jessica Finlay, University of Michigan
Abstract:

Little is known about the effects of COVID-19 on family caregivers in the US. Using data from a national sample of 2,485 US adults aged ≥55 in April and May, 2020 Truskinovsky, Kobayashi, and Finlay aimed to describe the magnitude of disruptions to family care arrangements during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associations between these disruptions and the mental health and employment outcomes of family caregivers. COVID-19 disrupted more than half of family caregiving arrangements, and disruptions were associated with poor mental health outcomes among caregivers, compared to both non-caregivers and caregivers who did not experience disruptions. Family caregivers who experienced pandemic-related employment disruptions were providing more care than caregivers who did not experience disruptions. These findings highlight the impact of the pandemic on a vital health care workforce that is vulnerable to shocks.

Participants

Francis Annan, Georgia State University
Belinda Archibong, Columbia University
Assen Assenov, National Institutes of Health
Jessica Faul, University of Michigan
Jessica Finlay, University of Michigan
Hanbat Jeong, Ohio State University
Lindsay Kobayashi, University of Michigan
Geoffrey Kocks, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Joaquin A. Rubalcaba, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Erica Spotts, National Institutes of Health
Victoria Udalova, U.S. Census Bureau

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