Interesting COVID-19 Health Economics Research

How does quarantining impact COVID-19 deaths? Just comparing individuals who did compared to did not quarantine is problematic since this will be a non-randomized sample. Individuals who adhere to quarantine recommendations may be more careful overall (e.g., better mask adherence, less likely to be smokers, conduct more preventive care) and thus the benefits of quarantining may be overestimated in a standard comparison. On the other hand, if younger healthier individuals are less likely to quarantine, the benefits of quarantining may be underestimated under the simple approach if younger, healthier people are both less likely to quarantine and more likely to either not get COVID-19 or if they do have less severe symptoms. What is needed is an exogenous source of variation in the number of people who are quarantining.

A paper by Shenoy et al. 2022 find just such a source: weather. They use data on the number of rainy days as an instrument to estimate the impact of quarantining on COVID-19 deaths.

We measure the benefit to society created by preventing COVID-19 deaths through a marginal increase in early social distancing. We exploit county-level rainfall on the last weekend before statewide lockdown in the early phase of the pandemic. After controlling for historical rainfall, temperature, and state fixed-effects, current rainfall is a plausibly exogenous instrument for social distancing. A one percent decrease in the population leaving home on the weekend before lockdown creates an average of 132 dollars of benefit per county resident within 2 weeks. The impacts of earlier distancing compound over time and mainly arise from lowering the risk of a major outbreak, yielding large but unevenly distributed social benefit.

Another question is how the fear of COVID-19 pandemic impacts individual consumption and savings behavior. A paper by Immordino et al. (2021) uses a survey of Italian household to answer this question.

The survey elicits individual-level indicators of fear of contagion, distinguishing between worries while working, shopping, traveling, eating out and meeting relatives or friends. We find that the probabilities of consumption drops and increased saving after the pandemics are positively associated to fear of contagion, particularly while shopping. Income uncertainty also contributes to savings increase and consumption drop. Our findings suggest that fear of contagion and income risk limits the effectiveness of policies aimed at stimulating consumption during the pandemic.

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