Vellore Arthi, John Parman: Disease, Downturns, and Wellbeing, Economic History and the Long-run Impacts of COVID-19, in: NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 27805, September 2020.
In their work, Vellore Arthi and John Parman ask how COVID-19 could affect human capital and well-being in the long term. They observed severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. For them, this public health crisis and the accompanying economic downturn seems to dwarf the scale, scope and destructive power of most modern pandemics. Since knowledge about other modern pandemics is largely limited to short-term effects, recent experience may do little to help predict and respond to the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 on individuals over decades and even generations. However, history offers a solution. Historical crises would offer closer analogies to the COVID-19 pandemic in each of its key dimensions – as a global pandemic, as a global recession – and provide the necessary starting point to study life course and intergenerational outcomes. In their paper, Arthi and Parman examine the evidence on the long-term effects of both historical pandemics (with emphasis on the 1918 influenza pandemic) and historical recessions (with emphasis on the Great Depression) on health, work and human capital. Finally, they discuss how past crises can influence their approach to COVID-19 assistance by telling us what to look out for, what we need to prepare for, and what data we should collect now.