Economic Policy Incentives to Preserve Lives and Livelihoods

25 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020 Last revised: 1 May 2021

See all articles by Roberto Chang

Roberto Chang

Rutgers University, New Brunswick/Piscataway - Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick/Piscataway - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Andrés Velasco

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: April 2020

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic has motivated a myriad of studies and proposals on how economic policy should respond to this colossal shock. But in this debate it is seldom recognized that the health shock is not entirely exogenous. Its magnitude and dynamics themselves depend on economic policies, and the explicit or implicit incentives those policies provide. To illuminate the feedback loops between medical and economic factors we develop a minimal economic model of pandemics. In the model, as in reality, individual decisions to comply (or not) with virus-related public health directives depend on economic variables and incentives, which themselves respond to current economic policy and expectations of future policies. The analysis yields several practical lessons: because policies affect the speed of virus transmission via incentives, public health measures and economic policies can complement each other, reducing the cost of attaining desired social goals; expectations of expansionary macroeconomic policies during the recovery phase can help reduce the speed of infection, and hence the size of the health shock; the credibility of announced policies is key to rule out both self-fulfilling pessimistic expectations and time inconsistency problems. The analysis also yields a critique of the current use of SIR models for policy evaluation, in the spirit of Lucas (1983).

Suggested Citation

Chang, Roberto and Velasco, Andrés, Economic Policy Incentives to Preserve Lives and Livelihoods (April 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3580578

Roberto Chang (Contact Author)

Rutgers University, New Brunswick/Piscataway - Faculty of Arts and Sciences-New Brunswick/Piscataway - Department of Economics ( email )

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New Brunswick, NJ 08901
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Andrés Velasco

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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