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Who Should Work from Home during a Pandemic? The Wage-Infection Trade-off

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  • Aum, Sangmin
  • Lee, Sang Yoon (Tim)
  • Shin, Yongseok

Abstract

Shutting down the workplace is an effective means of reducing contagion, but can incur large economic losses. We construct an exposure index, which measures infection risks across occupations, and a work-from-home index, which gauges the ease with which a job can be performed remotely across both industries and occupations. Because the two indices are negatively correlated but distinct, the economic costs of containing a pandemic can be minimized by only sending home those jobs that are highly exposed but easy to perform from home. Compared to a lockdown of all non-essential jobs, the optimal policy attains the same reduction in aggregate exposure (32 percent) with one-third fewer workers sent home (24 vs. 36 percent) and with only half the loss in aggregate wages (15 vs. 30 percent). A move from the lockdown to the optimal policy reduces the exposure of low-wage workers the most and the wage loss of the high-wage workers the most, although everyone's wage losses become smaller. A constrained optimal policy under which health workers cannot be sent home still achieves the same exposure reduction with a one-third smaller loss in aggregate wages (19 vs. 30 percent).

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  • Aum, Sangmin & Lee, Sang Yoon (Tim) & Shin, Yongseok, 2020. "Who Should Work from Home during a Pandemic? The Wage-Infection Trade-off," CEPR Discussion Papers 15332, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15332
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David H. Autor & David Dorn, 2013. "The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1553-1597, August.
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    7. Titan Alon & Minki Kim & David Lagakos & Mitchell VanVuren, 2020. "How Should Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic Differ in the Developing World?," NBER Working Papers 27273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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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. Aum, Sangmin & Lee, Sang Yoon (Tim) & Shin, Yongseok, 2021. "Inequality of fear and self-quarantine: Is there a trade-off between GDP and public health?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    2. Aum, Sangmin & Lee, Sang Yoon (Tim) & Shin, Yongseok, 2021. "COVID-19 doesn’t need lockdowns to destroy jobs: The effect of local outbreaks in Korea," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C).
    3. Sang Yoon (Tim) Lee & Minsung Park & Yongseok Shin, 2021. "Hit Harder, Recover Slower? Unequal Employment Effects of the Covid-19 Shock," NBER Working Papers 28354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. L'aszl'o Czaller & GergH{o} T'oth & Bal'azs Lengyel, 2021. "Vaccine allocation to blue-collar workers," Papers 2104.04639, arXiv.org.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    exposure; lockdown; Pandemic; work from home;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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