Modeling to inform economy-wide pandemic policy: Bringing epidemiologists and economists together

Abstract

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers have been tasked with designing and implementing policies in the face of extraordinary uncertainty (Manski, 1999) and stark tradeoffs between public health and other measures of human well-being. Policies designed to “flatten the curve” through social distancing often have negative economic consequences, such as unemployment, food insecurity, and business and school closures. The downstream consequences can also extend to outcomes more directly related to health, including intimate partner violence, addiction, depression, anxiety, suicide, and delays in medical treatments. Thus, efforts to mitigate the direct public health consequences of COVID-19 may not only have negative effects along other (e.g., economic) dimensions, but can have adverse indirect public health consequences as well. By the same token, however, choosing not to aggressively address the immediate public health crisis posed by COVID-19—a choice that has often been justified as a means of avoiding calamitous economic consequences—has driven repeated waves of exponential disease spread. These waves have not only driven morbidity and mortality; they also have had negative indirect effects on the economy, necessitating prolonged shutdowns and delaying resumption of economic activity. In summary, policies designed to promote public health or to preserve the economy can have the opposite effect on both dimensions.

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Elizabeth A. Stuart
Associate Dean for Education | Professor

Trained as a statistician, my primary research interests are in the development and use of methodology to better design and analyze the causal effects of public health and educational interventions. In this way I hope to bridge statistical advances and research practice, working with mental health and educational researchers to identify and solve methodological challenges.

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