Demographic Perspectives on Mortality of Covid-19 and Other Epidemics
What would a hypothetical one million US deaths in the Covid-19 epidemic mean for mortality of individuals at the population level? To put estimates of Covid-19 mortality into perspective, we estimate age-specific mortality for an epidemic claiming for illustrative purposes one million US lives, with results scalable over a broad range of deaths. We calculate the impact on period life expectancy (down 3 years) and remaining life-years (12.3 years per death), which for one million deaths can be valued at six to 10 trillion dollars. The age-patterns of Covid-19 mortality observed in other countries are remarkably similar and exhibit the typical rate of increase by age of normal mortality. The scenario of one million Covid-19 deaths is similar in scale to the decades-long HIV/AIDS and opioid-overdose epidemics but considerably smaller than the Spanish Flu of 1918. Unlike HIV/AIDS and opioid epidemics, the Covid-19 deaths will be concentrated in months rather than spread out over decades.
We received helpful comments on this work from seminar participants in the Department of Demography. Magali Barbieri helped us find the relevant data for Europe. Yi Zhou helped with the Chinese data. Peter Choi sent us data for S. Korea. Will Dow made many helpful comments. We thank them all. Goldstein is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Aging # R01AG058940. Both authors are supported by the UC Berkeley Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging (National Institute of Aging 5P30AG012839), and the Berkeley Population Center (National Institute for Child Health and Human Development P2CHD073964). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Joshua R. Goldstein & Ronald D. Lee, 2020. "Demographic perspectives on the mortality of COVID-19 and other epidemics," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 117(36), pages 22035-22041.