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Optimal Mitigation Policies in a Pandemic: Social Distancing and Working from Home

Author

Listed:
  • Callum J. Jones
  • Thomas Philippon
  • Venky Venkateswaran

Abstract

We study the response of an economy to an unexpected epidemic. Households mitigate the spread of the disease by reducing consumption, reducing hours worked, and working from home. Working from home is subject to learning-by-doing and the capacity of the health care system is limited. A social planner worries about two externalities, an infection externality and a healthcare congestion externality. Private agents’ mitigation incentives are too weak and suffer from a fatalism bias with respect to future infection rates. The planner implements front-loaded mitigation policies and encourages working from home immediately. In our calibration, assuming a CFR of 1% and an initial infection rate of 0.1%, private mitigation reduces the cumulative death rate from 2.5% of the initially susceptible population to about 1.75%. The planner optimally imposes a drastic suppression policy and reduces the death rate to 0.15% at the cost of an initial drop in consumption of around 25%.

Suggested Citation

  • Callum J. Jones & Thomas Philippon & Venky Venkateswaran, 2020. "Optimal Mitigation Policies in a Pandemic: Social Distancing and Working from Home," NBER Working Papers 26984, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26984
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Fernando E. Alvarez & David Argente & Francesco Lippi, 2020. "A Simple Planning Problem for COVID-19 Lockdown," NBER Working Papers 26981, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Dingel, Jonathan I. & Neiman, Brent, 2020. "How many jobs can be done at home?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    3. David Berger & Kyle Herkenhoff & Simon Mongey, 2020. "An SEIR Infectious Disease Model with Testing and Conditional Quarantine," Working Papers 2020-017, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • E6 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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