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Horrible Trade-offs in a Pandemic: Lockdowns, Transfers, Fiscal Space, and Compliance

Author

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  • Ricardo Hausmann

    (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

  • Ulrich Schetter

    (Center for International Development at Harvard University)

Abstract

In this paper, we develop a heterogeneous agent general equilibrium framework to analyze optimal joint policies of a lockdown and transfer payments in times of a pandemic. In our model, the effectiveness of a lockdown in mitigating the pandemic depends on endogenous compliance. A more stringent lockdown deepens the recession which implies that poorer parts of society find it harder to subsist. This reduces their compliance with the lockdown, and may cause deprivation of the very poor, giving rise to an excruciating trade-offbetween saving lives from the pandemic and from deprivation. Lump-sum transfers help mitigate this trade-off. We identify and discuss key trade-offs involved and provide comparative statics for optimal policy. We show that, ceteris paribus, the optimal lockdown is stricter for more severe pandemics and in richer countries. We then consider a government borrowing constraint and show that limited fiscal space lowers the optimal lockdown and welfare, and increases the aggregate death burden during the pandemic. We finally discuss distributional consequences and the political economy of fighting a pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo Hausmann & Ulrich Schetter, 2020. "Horrible Trade-offs in a Pandemic: Lockdowns, Transfers, Fiscal Space, and Compliance," CID Working Papers 382, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cid:wpfacu:382
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    File URL: https://growthlab.cid.harvard.edu/files/growthlab/files/2020-06-cid-wp-382-pandemic-trade-offs.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Economic policy > Policy trade-offs

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    Cited by:

    1. Phurichai Rungcharoenkitkul, 2021. "Macroeconomic effects of COVID‐19: A mid‐term review," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 439-458, October.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    COVID-19; lockdown; fiscal policy; government borrowing constraint; political economy; inequality; developing countries;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy; Modern Monetary Theory
    • F4 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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