How Did State Reopenings Affect Small Businesses?
In our previous post, we looked at the effects that the reopening of state economies across the United States has had on consumer spending. We found a significant effect of reopening, especially regarding spending in restaurants and bars as well as in the healthcare sector. In this companion post, we focus specifically on small businesses, using two different sources of high-frequency data, and we employ a methodology similar to that of our previous post to study the effects of reopening on small business activity along various dimensions. Our results indicate that, much like for consumer ...
Medicare and Financial Health across the United States
Consumer financial strain varies enormously across the United States. One pernicious source of financial strain is debt in collections—debt that is more than 120 days past due and that has been sold to a collections agency. In Massachusetts, the average person has less than $100 in collections debt, while in Texas, the average person has more than $300. In this post, we discuss our recent staff report that exploits the fact that virtually all Americans are universally covered by Medicare at 65 to show that health insurance not only improves financial health on average, but also is a major ...
Newer need not be better: evaluating the Penn World Tables and the World Development Indicators using nighttime lights
Nighttime lights data are a measure of economic activity whose measurement error is plausibly independent of the errors of most conventional indicators. Therefore, we can use nighttime lights as an independent benchmark to assess existing measures of economic activity (Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin 2016). We employ this insight to find out which vintages of the Penn World Tables (PWT) and of the World Development Indicators (WDI) better estimate true income per capita. We find that revisions of the PWT do not necessarily dominate their predecessors in terms of explaining nighttime lights (and ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in Covid-19: Health Insurance, Comorbidities, and Medical Facilities
Our previous work documents that low-income and majority-minority areas were considerably more affected by COVID-19, as captured by markedly higher case and death rates. In a four-part series starting with this post, we seek to understand the reasons behind these income and racial disparities. Do disparities in health status translate into disparities in COVID-19 intensity? Does the health system play a role through health insurance and hospital capacity? Can disparities in COVID-19 intensity be explained by high-density, crowded environments? Does social distancing, pollution, or the age ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in COVID-19: Social Distancing, Pollution, and Demographics
This is the third post in a series looking to explain the gap in COVID-19 intensity by race and by income. In the first two posts, we have investigated whether comorbidities, uninsurance, hospital resources, and home and transit crowding help explain the income and minority gaps. Here, we continue our investigation by looking at three additional potential channels: the fraction of elderly people, pollution, and social distancing at the beginning of the pandemic in the county. We aim to understand whether these three factors affect overall COVID-19 intensity, whether the income and racial gaps ...
The Affordable Care Act and the labor market: a first look
I consider changes in labor markets across U.S. states and counties around the enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and its implementation in 2014. I find that counties with large fractions of uninsured (and therefore a large exposure to the ACA) before the enactment or the implementation of the ACA experienced more rapid employment and salary growth than did counties with smaller fractions of people uninsured, both after the implementation of the ACA and after its enactment. I also find that the growth of the fraction of employees in states with larger uninsurance rates was not ...
The “Cadillac Tax”: Driving Firms to Change Their Plans?
Since the 1940s, employers that provide health insurance for their employees can deduct the cost as a business expense, but the government does not treat the value of that coverage as taxable income. This exclusion of employer-provided health insurance from taxable income?$248 billion in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office?is a huge subsidy for health spending. Many economists cite the distortionary effects of this tax subsidy as an important reason for why U.S. health care spending accounts for such a large share of the economy and why spending historically has grown so ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in Commuting for Work Following COVID-19
The introduction of numerous social distancing policies across the United States, combined with voluntary pullbacks in activity as responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, resulted in differences emerging in the types of work that were done from home and those that were not. Workers at businesses more likely to require in-person work—for example, some, but not all, workers in healthcare, retail, agriculture and construction—continued to come in on a regular basis. In contrast, workers in many other businesses, such as IT and finance, were generally better able to switch to working from home ...
The Affordable Care Act and the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis
Did Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act affect the course of the COVID-19 pandemic? We answer this question using a regression discontinuity design for counties near the borders of states that expanded Medicaid with states that did not. Relevant covariates change continuously across the Medicaid expansion frontier. We find that 1) health insurance changes discontinuously at the frontier, 2) COVID-19 cases do not change discontinuously at the frontier but the precision of this estimate is low, 3) COVID-19 deaths do not change discontinuously at the frontier and the confidence ...
Understanding the Racial and Income Gap in COVID-19: Essential Workers
This is the fourth and final post in this series aimed at understanding the gap in COVID-19 intensity by race and by income. The previous three posts focused on the role of mediating variables—such as uninsurance rates, comorbidities, and health resource in the first post; public transportation, and home crowding in the second; and social distancing, pollution, and age composition in the third—in explaining the racial and income gap in the incidence of COVID-19. In this post, we now investigate the role of employment in essential services in explaining this gap.