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Heterogeneity in Damages from a Pandemic

We use linked survey and administrative data to document and decompose the striking differences across demographic groups in both economic and health impacts of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The impacts of the pandemic on all-cause mortality and on employment were concentrated in the same racial, ethnic, and education groups, with non-White individuals and those without a college degree experiencing higher excess allcause mortality as well as a greater employment loss. Observable differences in living arrangements and the nature of work – which likely affected exposure to the virus and to economic contractions – can explain 15 percent of the Hispanic-White difference in excess mortality, almost one-quarter of the non- Hispanic Black-White difference, and almost half of the difference between those with and without a Bachelor’s degree; they can also explain 35 to 40 percent of the differences in economic damages between these groups. These findings underscore the importance of non-medical factors in contributing to the disparate impacts of public health shocks.

Amy Finkelstein
Geoffrey Kocks
Maria Polyakova
Victoria Udalova
Publication Date
November, 2022