Economic Lessons for COVID-19 Pandemic Policies
Forthcoming Southern Economic Journal
44 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 26, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic poses novel health issues. However, the benefits and costs of the pandemic and policies to address it have a familiar economic structure. Chief among the health-related benefits are the monetized values of the U.S. mortality costs of $3.9 trillion in 2020. The combined U.S. mortality and morbidity costs are $5.5–$5.9 trillion. Global mortality costs in 2020 total $10.1 trillion. The skewed age distribution of COVID-19 illnesses has stimulated increased advocacy of downward adjustments in the value of a statistical life (VSL) for older people. This article examines the role of age for policy analysis generally and for the rationing of scarce medical treatments, such as ventilators. Mortality risk reduction benefits should be based on the reduced probability of death multiplied by the pertinent VSL. Effective communication of risks to foster precautions hinges on the credibility of the information source, which public officials have jeopardized. Efficient control of risks imposes limits on personal freedoms to foster health improvements.
Keywords: COVID-19, coronavirus, value of a statistical life, mortality, morbidity
JEL Classification: H40, I18, J17, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation