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Open Access Publications from the University of California

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UC Santa Cruz Department of Economics researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.


God is in the rain: The impact of rainfall-induced early social distancing on COVID-19 outbreaks.

(2022)

We measure the benefit to society created by preventing COVID-19 deaths through a marginal increase in early social distancing. We exploit county-level rainfall on the last weekend before statewide lockdown in the early phase of the pandemic. After controlling for historical rainfall, temperature, and state fixed-effects, current rainfall is a plausibly exogenous instrument for social distancing. A one percent decrease in the population leaving home on the weekend before lockdown creates an average of 132 dollars of benefit per county resident within 2 weeks. The impacts of earlier distancing compound over time and mainly arise from lowering the risk of a major outbreak, yielding large but unevenly distributed social benefit.

Cover page of Instructional interventions for improving COVID-19 knowledge, attitudes, behaviors: Evidence from a large-scale RCT in India.

Instructional interventions for improving COVID-19 knowledge, attitudes, behaviors: Evidence from a large-scale RCT in India.

(2021)

Seeking ways to encourage broad compliance with health guidelines during the pandemic, especially among youth, we test two hypotheses pertaining to the optimal design of instructional interventions for improving COVID-19-related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. We randomly assigned 8376 lower-middle income youth in urban India to three treatments: a concentrated and targeted fact-based, instructional intervention; a longer instructional intervention that provided the same facts along with underlying scientific concepts; and a control. Relative to existing efforts, we find that both instructional interventions increased COVID-19-related knowledge immediately after intervention. Relative to the shorter fact-based intervention, the longer intervention resulted in sustained improvements in knowledge, attitudes, and self-reported behavior. Instead of reducing attention and comprehension by youth, the longer scientific based treatment appears to have increased understanding and retention of the material. The findings are instrumental to understanding the design of instruction and communication in affecting compliance during this and future pandemics.

Cover page of Essays on India’s Economic Policy in the Year of Coronavirus

Essays on India’s Economic Policy in the Year of Coronavirus

(2020)

These essays were written as columns for the Financial Express daily newspaper in India. This collection begins in December 2019, so technically the first two pieces were not written in the “Year of Coronavirus.” But they provide a good starting point. The collection ends in December 2020: there are 26 essays in all. All of these pieces appeared in the Financial Express, in print and online, with varying lags from the dates of writing, which are noted after each essay. The newspaper versions invariably had different, more elaborate titles, but the ones below are my original, somewhat spare, title choices. I hope that reading these pieces in sequence and together will provide a consistent and useful perspective on Indian economic policy in a year that has been truly extraordinary. I have not changed any of the text, so these represent my real-time and evolving understandings of India’s situation over this period. Many of the essays are about the response to the pandemic, so they focus on non-economic aspects of policy but the economic implications are, I would like to think, always in the analysis. Two of the essays focus on the US – its pandemic response and its presidential election – neither is about India’s policies at all, but each has, I hope, some lessons for India.

Cover page of Did COVID-19 Market Disruptions Disrupt Food Security? Evidence from Households in Rural Liberia and Malawi

Did COVID-19 Market Disruptions Disrupt Food Security? Evidence from Households in Rural Liberia and Malawi

(2020)

We quantify the effect of market disruptions due to COVID-19 on the lives of householdsin rural areas of Liberia and Malawi, utilizing panel data from phone surveys that were implemented as part of a randomized cash transfer experiment. The surveys began collection several months before the pandemic and have continued throughout it. The household survey included a consistent set of internationally accepted and validated questions on food security (the householddietary diversity score, the household hunger scale, and the food consumption score). In both countries, market activity was severely disrupted and we observe large declines in income among market vendors, but we find no evidence of declines in food security for households in the short run. Even though we observe no adverse effects of the lockdowns on food securityamong the control group, cash transfers improved dietary quality and quantity over the low levels observed at baseline.

Cover page of The impact of COVID-19 on small business owners: Evidence from the first 3 months after widespread social-distancing restrictions.

The impact of COVID-19 on small business owners: Evidence from the first 3 months after widespread social-distancing restrictions.

(2020)

Social-distancing restrictions and health- and economic-driven demand shifts from COVID-19 are expected to shutter many small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures, but there is very little early evidence on impacts. This paper provides the first analysis of impacts of the pandemic on the number of active small businesses in the United States using nationally representative data from the April 2020 Current Population Survey-the first month fully capturing early effects. The number of active business owners in the United States plummeted by 3.3 million or 22% over the crucial 2-month window from February to April 2020. The drop in active business owners was the largest on record, and losses to business activity were felt across nearly all industries. African-American businesses were hit especially hard experiencing a 41% drop in business activity. Latinx business owner activity fell by 32%, and Asian business owner activity dropped by 26%. Simulations indicate that industry compositions partly placed these groups at a higher risk of business activity losses. Immigrant business owners experienced substantial losses in business activity of 36%. Female business owners were also disproportionately affected (25% drop in business activity). Continuing the analysis in May and June, the number of active business owners remained low-down by 15% and 8%, respectively. The continued losses in May and June, and partial rebounds from April were felt across all demographic groups and most industries. These findings of early-stage losses to small business activity have important implications for policy, income losses, and future economic inequality.

Cover page of Measuring Job Creation, Growth, and Survival among the Universe of Start-ups in the United States Using a Combined Start-up Panel Data Set

Measuring Job Creation, Growth, and Survival among the Universe of Start-ups in the United States Using a Combined Start-up Panel Data Set

(2019)

The field of entrepreneurship is growing rapidly and expanding into new areas. This article presents a new compilation of administrative panel data on the universe of business start-ups in the United States, which will be useful for future research in entrepreneurship. To create the US start-up panel data set, the authors link the universe of non-employer firms to the universe of employer firms in the Longitudinal Business Database (LBD). Start-up cohorts of more than five million new businesses per year, which create roughly three million jobs, can be tracked over time. To illustrate the potential of the new start-up panel data set for future research, the authors provide descriptive statistics for a few examples of research topics using a representative start-up cohort.