8 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.

In the last four months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted immigration flows around the world. In a presentation at the 2020 NBER Summer Institute, Research Associate Gordon Hanson of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University outlines the factors that will determine the longer-term immigration effects of the pandemic. Watch the video here.

Eight NBER working papers distributed this week examine the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the actual or potential consequences of various policy responses to it.

The studies address research questions including the impact of the pandemic on the pace of automation (27249), the ratio of undetected to detected COVID-19 infections (27528), the role of public health messages on case reporting and self-protective behavior in India (27496), and the relationship between electoral pressures on political leaders and the strength of the pandemic-fighting measures that they adopt (27498). Other studies examine the determinants of social distancing behavior (27531), the impact of a large public gathering on COVID-19 infection rates (27522), the effect of working in an occupation that precludes work-from-home on pandemic risk (27519), and the lessons of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, for the extent to which hospitals are likely to recoup lost revenues associated with patients whose treatment was canceled or postponed at the height of the pandemic (27505).

More than 180 NBER working papers issued in 2020 have reported on pandemic-related research.

The NBER Digest

In Health Care Markets with Many, Competitive
Insurers, Hospital Charges Rise More after Mergers

A typical hospital merger in a market with many, competitive insurers would raise hospital charges for procedures four times as much as a merger in a market with a small number of large insurers, according to research featured in the July edition of The NBER Digest. Also featured in the July issue of the Digest are studies of cross-border investment statistics, mortality impacts of ride hailing, pandemic-related unemployment benefits, economic impacts of the lockdown, and corporate payouts.
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New NBER Research

15 July 2020

Cost Saving and Freezing of Corporate Pension Plans

Joshua D. Rauh, Irina Stefanescu, and Stephen P. Zeldes find that when firms freeze their defined-benefit pension plans, they typically save about 13.5 percent of their long-term cost of employees. Freezes seem to occur both because firms can save by reneging on implicit contracts, and because of changing worker valuation of defined benefit pension promises.

14 July 2020

The Effect of Student Loans on College Persistence

Using Chilean data, David Card and Alex Solis find that access to loans increases the fraction of high-scoring students who return to university for a second year by 20 percentage points and boosts the fraction who complete a bachelor’s degree by 12 percentage points.

13 July 2020

Non-Work Social Contacts are Key to Reopening Scenarios

A strong economic reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic is possible but it hinges on retaining strong restrictions on non-work social contacts, according to modeling by David Baqaee, Emmanuel Farhi, Michael J. Mina, and James H. Stock
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2020 NBER Virtual Summer Institute

The NBER Summer Institute is a collection of 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. The live-stream URLs are assigned each day by YouTube, and they will be posted as soon as they are available here.

The NBER Reporter

Exploring the Changes that Digitization Has Brought
to Many Facets of Business, Media, and Personal Life

The new edition of the quarterly NBER Reporter features a review of research in the framework of the NBER’s decade-long project on the Economics of Digitization. Also in this issue of the Reporter, NBER research associates write about their explorations of behavioral biases among analysts and investors, health care delivery in conditions of uncertainty, tax credit impacts on corporate behavior, and medical spending and savings in elderly households.
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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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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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