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Expectations, Infections, and Economic Activity

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  • Rebelo, Sérgio
  • Eichenbaum, Martin
  • Godinho de Matos, Miguel
  • Lima, Francisco
  • Trabandt, Mathias

Abstract

The Covid epidemic had a large impact on economic activity. In contrast, the dramatic decline in mortality from infectious diseases over the past 120 years had a small economic impact. We argue that people's response to successive Covid waves helps reconcile these two findings. Our analysis uses a unique administrative data set with anonymized monthly expenditures at the individual level that covers the first three Covid waves. Consumer expenditures fell by about the same amount in the first and third waves, even though the risk of getting infected was larger in the third wave. We find that people had pessimistic prior beliefs about the case-fatality rates that converged over time to the true case-fatality rates. Using a model where Covid is endemic, we show that the impact of Covid is small when people know the true case-fatality rate but large when people have empirically-plausible pessimistic prior beliefs about the case-fatality rate. These results reconcile the large economic impact of Covid with the small effect of the secular decline in mortality from infectious diseases estimated in the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Rebelo, Sérgio & Eichenbaum, Martin & Godinho de Matos, Miguel & Lima, Francisco & Trabandt, Mathias, 2022. "Expectations, Infections, and Economic Activity," CEPR Discussion Papers 15373, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15373
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    Cited by:

    1. Martin S Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo & Mathias Trabandt, 2021. "The Macroeconomics of Epidemics [Economic activity and the spread of viral diseases: Evidence from high frequency data]," The Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 34(11), pages 5149-5187.
    2. Giovanni Immordino & Tullio Jappelli & Tommaso Oliviero & Alberto Zazzaro, 2022. "Fear of COVID‐19 contagion and consumption: Evidence from a survey of Italian households," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(3), pages 496-507, March.
    3. Albuquerque, Bruno & Green, Georgina, 2023. "Financial concerns and the marginal propensity to consume in COVID times: Evidence from UK survey data," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    4. Almut Balleer & Sebastian Link & Manuel Menkhoff & Peter Zorn, 2024. "Demand or Supply? Price Adjustment Heterogeneity during the COVID-19 Pandemic," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 20(1), pages 93-157, February.
    5. Martin S. Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo & Mathias Trabandt, 2022. "Inequality in Life and Death," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 70(1), pages 68-104, March.
    6. Gunther Schnabl & Tim Florian Sepp, 2021. "Inflationsziel und Inflationsmessung in der Eurozone im Wandel [Inflation Targeting and Inflation Measurement in the Euro Area in Transition]," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 101(8), pages 615-620, August.
    7. Claire Greene & Ellen A. Merry & Joanna Stavins, 2021. "Has COVID Changed Consumer Payment Behavior?," Working Papers 21-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    8. Bruno P. Carvalho & Susana Peralta & João Pereira dos Santos, 2022. "Regional and sectorial impacts of the Covid‐19 crisis: Evidence from electronic payments," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 757-798, June.
    9. Cristina Manteu & Sara Serra & Sónia Cabral & Cátia Silva, 2021. "Consumption expenditure during the COVID-19 pandemic: an analysis based on Portuguese card transaction data," Economic Bulletin and Financial Stability Report Articles and Banco de Portugal Economic Studies, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Risk; Covid-19;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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