Economic Lessons for COVID-19 Pandemic Policies

Forthcoming Southern Economic Journal

Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 21-04

44 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2021

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: January 26, 2021

Abstract

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

Viscusi, W. Kip, Economic Lessons for COVID-19 Pandemic Policies (January 26, 2021). Forthcoming Southern Economic Journal , Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 21-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3773742

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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