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Fiscal Multipliers during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Many nations, including the United States, pursued aggressive fiscal stimulus to combat pandemic-related declines in economic activity in 2020. Assessing the impact of greater spending and reduced taxes is difficult, however, because the labor market disruptions associated with COVID-19, and other public policies such as stay-at-home orders, could offset the usual expansionary effect. In a new study (29531) of the association between government spending, employment, and consumption in US cities, NBER research associates Alan Auerbach and Yuriuy Gorodnichenko of the University of California, Berkeley, and their collaborators Peter McCrory of JP Morgan Chase and Daniel Murphy of the University of Virginia, find expansionary effects of fiscal policy in locations that did not adopt strict stay-at-home policies, but very little impact in places with strict policies. Auerbach summarizes the study's findings in the video above. An archive of NBER videos on pandemic-related research may be found here.

New COVID-19 Working Papers: December 27, 2021

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Four new working papers distributed this week report on the economic, health, and related consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and of public policies that respond to it. One examines the impact of the pandemic on anxiety, depression, and other metrics of mental health, and reports substantial benefits of vaccination along these dimensions (29593). Another summarizes how the pandemic affected income inequality in India (29597). A third uses data on the timing of code postings to GitHub, a software and code repository, to track changes in hours of work when work-from-home became the norm (29598). Another study compares different measures of core inflation in the US during the pandemic (29609).

More than 500 NBER working papers have addressed various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These papers are open access and have been collected for easy reference. Like all NBER papers, they are circulated for discussion and comment, and have not been peer-reviewed. View them in reverse chronological order or by topic area.

A research summary from the monthly NBER Digest

Working Paper Figure w29197

Bond Markets Pay Attention to Countries’ Political Leanings


Some nations are more likely to elect left-leaning central governments than others. In Sovereign Spreads and the Political Leaning of Nations (NBER Working Paper 29197), Ionut Cotoc, Alok Johri, and César Sosa-Padilla investigate the relationship between a country’s political composition and the interest rate on its sovereign debt, and develop a quantitative model to explain their empirical results.

The researchers analyze data from 56 countries over the…

From the NBER Reporter: Research, program, and conference summaries


Gender, Race, and Academic Career Outcomes in Economics


The textbook model of the labor market posits that workers are paid their marginal products. In this setting, equally productive workers should be paid and promoted at the same rate. While in the general labor market we are able to observe individual education, industry, occupation, and earnings, in most cases it is difficult to link individuals’ capital investments and productivity outcomes. My research has focused on academic labor markets because capital — in the form of federal research funding — and output — in the form of publications and citations — can be linked to individuals to yield new findings about academic careers and knowledge production.

Together with my collaborators, I have examined gender and race/ethnicity differences in research career…

From the NBER Bulletin on Health


Urgent Care Centers Raise Medicare Costs


Urgent care centers (UCCs) have proliferated in recent years: the share of zip codes served by a UCC rose from 28 percent in 2006 to 91 percent in 2019.  The implications of this market expansion for overall health care costs are not obvious. If UCCs divert patients from costly emergency departments (EDs), then UCC access could reduce costs. But, if UCCs initiate demand for additional services, they could raise costs. Researchers Janet Currie, Anastasia Karpova, and Dan Zeltzer address the question of how the entry of UCCs into a market affects health care costs for Medicare beneficiaries in Do Urgent Care Centers Reduce Medicare Spending? (NBER Working Paper 29047).

From the NBER Bulletin on Entrepreneurship


Exploring the Chemistry of Entrepreneurial Teams


In Diversity and Performance in Entrepreneurial Teams (NBER Working Paper 28684), Sophie Calder-WangPaul Gompers, and Kevin Huang analyze data from an entrepreneurship course at Harvard Business School (HBS) to explore the links between team diversity and entrepreneurial success.

The researchers collect data from a course taken by all 3,684 first-year MBA students in the classes of 2013 to 2016. Over a semester, teams of five to seven students worked together to design and launch microbusinesses, which faculty mentors and judges evaluated…

From the NBER Bulletin on Retirement and Disability


Changes in Social Security’s Delayed Retirement Credit


Social Security is the primary source of income for most individuals aged 65 and up. Benefits depend on the worker’s earning history and on the age at which benefits are claimed, which may be as early as age 62. For each month beyond the Full Retirement Age (FRA) that the worker delays claiming (up to age 70), the monthly benefit amount is increased by the Delayed Retirement Credit (DRC).

The DRC has increased substantially over time, from 3 percent per year of delay for those born prior to 1925 to 8 percent per year of delay for those born in 1943 and later. The DRC increase was phased in gradually in 0.5 percentage point increments every two years. This change has strengthened the incentive to delay claiming for more recent birth cohorts. However, the effects of the policy change have not been extensively studied. …

Featured Working Papers

Equalizing Chicago police officer seniority across districts would reduce violent crime rate by 4.6 percent and significantly decrease inequality in crime, discretionary arrests, and officer use of force across neighborhoods, according to a study by Bocar Ba, Patrick Bayer, Nayoung Rim, Roman Rivera, and Modibo Sidibé.

From its inception in the 1930s, the Federal Housing Administration did not insure mortgages in the low-income neighborhoods where most urban Black Americans lived, suggesting that  this exclusionary pattern was unrelated to the infamous redlining maps made later by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, according to Price V. Fishback, Jonathan Rose, Kenneth A. Snowden, and Thomas Storrs.

Reducing credits that allow employers to pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage would reduce jobs among tipped restaurant workers without affecting the earnings of those who remain employed enough to raise total earnings in this sector, according to an analysis by David Neumark and Maysen Yen.

The material circumstances of single mothers improved in the decades following the welfare reform of the 1990s and other policy changes, and the consumption of the most-disadvantaged single-mother-headed families rose at a faster rate than comparison groups, Jeehoon Han, Bruce D. Meyer, and James X. Sullivan find.

Post-1990 school finance reforms increased high school completion and college-going, particularly among Black students and women, raised annual earnings, and increased the return to education especially at the high school level, according to research by  Jesse Rothstein and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach.

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In the News

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Research Spotlights

NBER researchers discuss their work on subjects of wide interest to economists, policymakers, and the general public. Recordings of more-detailed presentations, keynote addresses, and panel discussions at NBER conferences are available on the Lectures page.
COVID-19 percent excess deaths figure
Research Spotlight
It is widely accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic raised death rates in the United States in 2020, but quantifying...
school mode and test scores figure 11232021.jpg
Research Spotlight
School districts across the United States varied in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the shift to online...
Nudges for vaccines figure 11102021.jpg
Research Spotlight
Increasing the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated against COVID-19 is a critical US public health...
Asset Pricing Program Meeting Panel Discussion - Central Bank Digital Currencies: Challenges and Opportunities
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The Panel Discussion was part of the 2021 Fall Asset Pricing Program Meeting
school visits figure
Research Spotlight
Nearly all schools in the United States suspended in-person learning during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic....
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