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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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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

Differential Impacts of Job Losses in the Pandemic:
Employment Fell 30% for Lowest Earners, 5% at Top




Low-wage workers and small businesses have been hardest hit by the economic impacts of lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research featured in the latest edition of The NBER Digest. Firms with fewer than 50 employees laid off more than 25 percent of workers while those with more than 100 employees laid off 15 to 20 percent. Also featured in the July issue of the Digest are studies of corporate payouts, hospital mergers’ effects on pricing, cross-border investment statistics, and mortality impacts of ride hailing, and pandemic-related unemployment benefits.
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New NBER Research

6 July 2020

Estimating Probabilities of the Success of Vaccines

The probability of success of an industry-sponsored vaccine program is 39.6 percent, while non-industry-sponsored vaccine programs have just 6.8 percent probability of success, according to an analysis by Andrew W. Lo, Kien Wei Siah, and Chi Heem Wong.

2 July 2020

Pandemic Effects on US Outpatient Providers

By mid-April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with about a 67 percent decline in the total number of outpatient visits per provider relative to the same week in prior years, Pinka Chatterji and Yue Li calculate.

1 July 2020

Boll Weevil Shock Narrowed Black-White Inequality

White sons born after the early 20th century boll weevil shock to agriculture had similar wages and schooling outcomes to white sons born prior to the weevil’s arrival, while black sons born after the boll weevil had significantly higher wages and years of schooling, Karen Clay, Ethan J. Schmick, and Werner Troesken find.
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2020 NBER Virtual Summer Institute

The NBER Summer Institute is a collection 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. Please go to the NBER YouTube channel to find the livestreams of the day https://www.youtube.com/NBERvideos


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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The NBER Reporter

Examining Approaches to Rehabilitating Criminals,
Questioning the Widespread Idea that ‘Nothing Works’




Following an influential report on prisoner rehabilitation programs that concluded that "nothing works" in the United States rose sharply, ensuing policy discussions gradually led to rehabilitation programs being subordinated to policies emphasizing punishment and incapacitation. Research into the Norwegian prison system, featured in the current edition of the NBER Reporter, challenges that approach. Also in this issue of the free quarterly Reporter, NBER affiliates write about investigations into barriers to take-up of government initiatives, the impact of rare events on financial markets, the impact of land systems and misallocation on agricultural productivity, and the role of the firm in explaining the structure and evolution of wages and worker risk .
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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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