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The political economy of COVID‐19


  • Scott Kaplan
  • Jacob Lefler
  • David Zilberman


We assess the economic and health costs of COVID and policy responses to COVID. Based on initial estimates of health and economic costs, social distancing policies were justified, but these estimates now seem too high because of learning by doing. Significant differences in mortality rates across US states and countries can be explained by population density, climate, exposure, and policy. Regions that were able to contain the disease early have seen fewer deaths and lower economic losses. Some developing countries initially imposed drastic, costly measures, perhaps motivated by political economy. We also find that there has been underinvestment in prevention and mitigation that could have reduced the cost of adaptation and suggest that there is a lesson for climate change policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Kaplan & Jacob Lefler & David Zilberman, 2022. "The political economy of COVID‐19," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 44(1), pages 477-488, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:apecpp:v:44:y:2022:i:1:p:477-488
    DOI: 10.1002/aepp.13164

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rob Fraser, 2015. "Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts over Animal Disease Control," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(3), pages 843-845, September.
    2. Viscusi, W Kip & Aldy, Joseph E, 2003. "The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 5-76, August.
    3. David Zilberman & Joachim Otte & David Roland-Holst & Dirk Pfeiffer (ed.), 2012. "Health and Animal Agriculture in Developing Countries," Natural Resource Management and Policy, Springer, edition 1, number 978-1-4419-7077-0, November.
    4. Michael Greenstone & Vishan Nigam, 2020. "Does Social Distancing Matter?," Working Papers 2020-26, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    5. Thunström, Linda & Newbold, Stephen C. & Finnoff, David & Ashworth, Madison & Shogren, Jason F., 2020. "The Benefits and Costs of Using Social Distancing to Flatten the Curve for COVID-19," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 179-195, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marson, Marta & Migheli, Matteo & Saccone, Donatella, 2022. "Free to Die: Economic Freedoms and Influenza Mortality," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 202210, University of Turin.

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