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Health versus Wealth: On the Distributional Effects of Controlling a Pandemic

Author

Listed:
  • Andy Glover

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City)

  • Jonathan Heathcote

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

  • Dirk Krueger

    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Jose Victor Rios-Rull

    (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

To slow the spread of COVID-19, many countries are shutting down non-essential sectors of the economy. Older individuals have the most to gain from slowing virus diffusion. Younger workers in sectors that are shuttered have the most to lose. In this paper, we build a model in which economic activity and disease progression are jointly determined. Individuals differ by age (young and retired), by sector (basic and luxury), and by health status. Disease transmission occurs in the workplace, in consumption activities, at home, and in hospitals. We study the optimal economic mitigation policy of a utilitarian government that can redistribute across individuals, but where such redistribution is costly. We show that optimal redistribution and mitigation policies interact, and reflect a compromise between the strongly diverging preferred policy paths of different subgroups of the population. We find that the shutdown in place on April 12 is too extensive, but that a partial shutdown should remain in place through the fall. People prefer deeper and longer shutdowns if a vaccine is imminent, especially the elderly.

Suggested Citation

  • Andy Glover & Jonathan Heathcote & Dirk Krueger & Jose Victor Rios-Rull, 2020. "Health versus Wealth: On the Distributional Effects of Controlling a Pandemic," Working Papers 2020-038, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2020-038
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Dirk Kruger & Harald Uhlig & Taojun Xie, 2020. "Macroeconomic Dynamics and Reallocation in an Epidemic," Working Papers 2020-43, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
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    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    COVID-19; economic policy; redistribution;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J17 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Value of Life; Foregone Income

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