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Tracking the COVID-19 Economy in Real Time

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The speed and geographic variation of the COVID-19 economic decline has placed a premium on higher-frequency information, and on more disaggregate data on economic activity in different locations, than most economic surveys provide. Raj Chetty, John Friedman, Nathan Hendren, Michael Stepner, and the Opportunity Insights Team have combined information from a range of private-sector sources to develop daily, location-specific measures of economic activity (27431). They find that low-wage workers were more likely to become unemployed as a result of the pandemic, that spending by low-income households has rebounded faster than that of their high-income counterparts, and that the Payroll Protection Program had only a modest impact on employment. Chetty summarizes these findings in the short video above.

Five NBER working papers distributed this week examine the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or analyze policy responses to it. Two studies describe how venture capital investors (27824) and small- and medium-sized businesses (27833) have been affected by the pandemic. Another uses analysts’ forecasts of corporate earnings to estimate how a future vaccine is expected to impact corporate profits (27829), while a fourth study investigates the impact of increasing global inter-connectedness on the likelihood and severity of pandemics (27840). The final study analyzes how the labor market effects of the pandemic have varied across occupations (27841).

More than 250 NBER working papers have presented pandemic-related research. These papers are open access and have been collected for easy reference. Like all NBER papers, they are circulated for discussion and comment, and have not been peer-reviewed. View them in reverse chronological order or by topic area.


The NBER Digest

Arrest Rates for Blacks Fell in Counties Both Covered
by the Voting Rights Act and with Many Black Residents




Following passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Black arrest rates fell in counties that were covered by the legislation, had a large number of newly enfranchised Black voters, and had elected chief law enforcement officers, a study featured in the current edition of The NBER Digest finds. Also in this issue of the free, monthly Digest are summaries of studies of the current state of infrastructure investment in the United States, and the offshoring effects of restricting H-1B visas, and the post-war effect of US R&D spending during World War II, variation in public and private insurers’ reimbursements to hospitals, and differences in US and Western European productivity growth from 1995 to 2005.
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New NBER Research

22 September 2020

Relabeling, Retirement, and Regret in Finland

Relabeling of the “normal” retirement age is a powerful determinant of date of retirement, according to an analysis of Finnish data by Jonathan Gruber, Ohto Kanninen, and Terhi Ravaska. Marginal workers induced to retire by relabeling are much more likely to return to work, suggesting regret among those who respond to the change.

21 September 2020

Wealth, Race, and Consumption Smoothing

Black households cut consumption 50 percent more than Whites when faced with a similarly-sized income shock, Peter Ganong, Damon Jones, Pascal J. Noel, Fiona E. Greig, Diana Farrell, and Chris Wheat calculate. Nearly all of this is explained by differences in liquid wealth at the onset of the shock.

18 September 2020

Conflicting Interests and the Effect of Fiduciary Duty

After the Department of Labor proposed a rule in 2016 to hold brokers to a fiduciary standard when dealing with retirement accounts, sales of high-expense variable annuities fell 52 percent, sales became more sensitive to expenses, and insurers increased the relative availability of low-expense products, Mark L. Egan, Shan Ge, and Johnny Tang find
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Bulletin on Retirement and Disability

Panel Discussion: Implications of COVID-19 for Social
Security in the US at the NBER 2020 Summer Institute




A panel discussion of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Social Security in the US is summarized in the current issue of the Bulletin on Retirement and Disability. The panel was held as part of the NBER 2020 Summer Institute’s Economics of Social Security meeting and assessed potential effects of COVID-19 on Social Security fiscal projections. In April, SSA projections assumed a 15 percent reduction in earnings and payroll tax for one or two years, and then a full recovery. In this scenario, trust fund reserve depletion shifts forward from early 2035 to mid- or early 2034. Also featured in this issue of the free Bulletin are a summary of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium, a study of how labelling in retirement plans affects retirement rates, and a summary of new RDRC projects which intend to examine the COVID-19 effects on retirement and Social Security. Video and slides from the panel presentation are available here.
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Bulletin on Health

The Enduring Impacts of OxyContin Reformulation




The latest issue of the Bulletin on Health features a study that examines the long-term consequences of the reformulation of OxyContin on fatal drug overdoses. In 2010, an abuse-deterrent reformulation of OxyContin was introduced, with the goal of reducing opioid addiction and overdoses. The study concludes that this change instead generated an increase in fatal drug overdoses, by reducing the supply of abusable prescription drugs and inducing opioid addicts to switch to illicit drug markets. Also featured in this issue of the free Bulletin on Health are two studies that introduce methods for using currently-available data to better understand COVID-19 infection rates, 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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The NBER Reporter

Patient Care Under Conditions of Uncertainty
in Normal Times and in the Era of COVID-19




Aggressive treatment may reduce the risk of disease development or the severity of disease that does develop, but it also could generate health side effects and greater financial costs. How to choose is explored in research featured in the current edition of the NBER Reporter. Also in this issue of the Reporter, NBER affiliates write about impacts of tax credits on corporate behavior, medical spending and savings in elderly households, and research in the NBER's decade-long project on the Economics of Digitization project, and behavioral biases of analysts and investors.
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2020 Summer Institute Methods Lectures



The 2020 Methods Lectures introduce differential privacy, a method of assessing the trade-off between releasing more-detailed information based on survey responses and protecting respondents' privacy, and illustrate its application in several settings. The lectures and associated slides are available to view online or download.


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