Expectations, Infections, and Economic Activity
NBER Working Paper,
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.
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15.04.2021 • 11/2021
Pandemic delays upswing – Demography slows growth
In their spring report, the leading economic research institutes forecast an increase in gross domestic product of 3.7% in the current year and 3.9% in 2022. The renewed shutdown is delaying the economic recovery, but as soon as the risks of infection, particularly from vaccination, have been averted, a strong recovery will begin. The economy is likely to return to normal output levels around the start of the coming year.
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01.02.2021 • 4/2021
During Corona, households are saving more – not for fear of unemployment but for lack of spending opportunities
During the Corona crisis, European households increased their savings dramatically. According to an analysis carried out by the Halle Institute for Economic Research (IWH), the increase in savings is largely due to the inability of households to consume in the face of government lockdown measures, rather than other factors such as economic uncertainty. IWH President Reint Gropp therefore sees potential for a significant catch-up effect in consumption as soon as the lockdown is lifted.
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Why Are Households Saving so much During the Corona Recession?
IWH Policy Notes,
Savings rates among European households have reached record levels during the Corona recession. We investigate three possible explanations for the increase in household savings: precautionary motivations induced by increased economic uncertainty, reduced consumption opportunities due to lockdown measures, and Ricardian Equivalence, i.e. increases in the expected future tax-burden of households driven by increases in government debt. To test these explanations, we compile a monthly panel of euro area countries from January 2019 to August 2020. Our findings indicate that the chief driver of the increase in household savings is supply: As governments restrict households’ opportunities to spend, households spend less. We estimate that going from no lockdown measures to that of Italy’s in March, would have resulted in the growth of Germany’s deposit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio being 0.6 percentage points higher each month. This would be equivalent to the volume of deposits increasing by roughly 14.3 billion euros or 348 euros per house monthly. Demand effects, driven by either fears of unemployment or fear of infection from COVID-19, appear to only have a weak impact on household savings, whereas changes in government debt are unrelated or even negatively related to savings rates. The analysis suggests that there is some pent-up demand for consumption that may unravel after lockdown measures are abolished and may result in a significant increase in consumption in the late spring/early summer 2021.