Pandemic Economics

By Stitcher & Becker Friedman Institute for Economics

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Insights from top economists to help you navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Hosts Tess Vigeland and Eduardo Porter talk to University of Chicago economists about their research, revealing important new ways to make sense of this moment. Economics is at the heart of crucial decisions about how we confront the COVID-19 crisis. Topics range from global trade to the changing meaning of work. Pandemic Economics is produced by the Becker Friedman Institute and Stitcher and is part of the University of Chicago podcast network. Production and original music in this series by Story Mechanics. More information at

Episode Date
Navigating Uncertainty
How can leaders make sound policy decisions with incomplete information? Lars Peter Hansen and Constantine Yannelis outline what economic theory offers to decision makers dealing with uncertainty and what it says about COVID-19 policy to date.
Aug 06, 2020
How to Price A Vaccine?
Under both pandemic and economic stress, how will the market perform when it comes to setting the price for effective treatments or a cure?  Katherine Baicker and Richard Thaler explore the economic forces that drive production and distribution of necessary goods like COVID-19 tests, and importantly, a vaccine
Jul 30, 2020
US & China: Relationship on the Rocks?
Is COVID-19 is complicating US-China relations? Zhiguo He and Chang-Tai Hsieh offer insight into how the current crisis has impacted existing dynamics between the world’s two largest economies.
Jul 23, 2020
The Holes in the Safety Net
CARES Act funds quickly put cash in the hands of Americans affected by shutdown, but in many cases, relief didn’t reach minority and low-income workers who needed it most. Damon Jones discusses the inequalities in relief efforts and how the country can build a stronger social safety net going forward.
Jul 16, 2020
Stopping an Avalanche of Poverty
One of the largest economic downturns in US history has not produced more poverty. What happened? Bruce Meyer describes how the federal government’s swift actions kept, or, in some cases, lifted families above the poverty line.
Jul 09, 2020
The Virus is the Boss
Is government policy driving consumer behavior or fear of infection? Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson share new research exploring this question, and why it matters for economic policy design.
Jul 02, 2020
The Lopsided Recession
The current recession is not only unprecedented in its nature and scope, but also in its effects on industries, workers, and households. Veronica Guerrieri and Erik Hurst describe the unequal effects of this historic downturn, including how the cascading economic effects of the health crisis more severely impact low-wage workers.
Jun 25, 2020
Meet the COVID-19 Consumer
Consumer spending is one of the most important indicators of economic health. In this episode, Michael Weber and Constantine Yannelis share research insights on the effect of pandemic and federal stimulus policies on spending, and what these trends tell us about an economic recovery.
Jun 17, 2020
Could the Fed’s Rescue Go Awry?
Central banks are playing a critical, yet little discussed, role in limiting the economic damage of COVID-19. In this episode, Chicago Booth professor and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan discusses how the pandemic is forcing the Federal Reserve and its international counterparts into uncharted territory.
Jun 10, 2020
Rethinking the Jobless Benefits Boost
Under the CARES Act, two-thirds of eligible unemployed Americans can access unemployment insurance exceeding their prior earnings. Peter Ganong and Joseph Vavra discuss what this fact means for the unemployed, economic recovery from COVID-19, and how to improve the program for future federal relief packages.
Jun 09, 2020
Learning from South Korea's Success
South Korea detected its first case of COVID-19 one day before the US, but rather than initiate lockdowns, it launched a program that shares location information on COVID-19 patients. Chang-Tai Hsieh discusses how South Korea limited COVID-19 deaths to 5.2 per million while the US rate climbed to 289 per million, and what it may reveal about the cost of privacy.
May 28, 2020
Does visiting a bookstore put you at greater risk for infection than a fast-food restaurant? As states loosen lockdown restrictions on businesses, Katherine Baicker and Oeindrila Dube have developed a measure of which businesses pose the greatest risk for spreading disease based on factors like crowding, length of stay, and potential for touch contact.
May 21, 2020
Jobs Lost and the Child Care Conundrum
Since March, 22% of American workers lost their jobs. How can we begin to think about such an unprecedented deterioration in the labor market? Erik Hurst has studied who exactly has stopped collecting a paycheck and gives context to the staggering numbers. Then, Joseph Vavra shares his research on one of the most critical hurdles for parents to get back to work – childcare.
May 14, 2020
Policy Gambles?
Freakonomics’ Steve Levitt believes in the power of incentives and he has a new proposal for how to make widespread testing successful: set up a testers' lottery and give gigantic cash prizes. And, Eric Zwick takes a closer look at PPP lending to small businesses under the CARES Act and how many of these loans missed the target.
May 07, 2020
Is There a Case for Optimism?
Is there any room for optimism amid an economic shock of this magnitude? Austan Goolsbee offers insights from past economic crises and a path forward for balancing trade-offs between public health and the economy. His colleague Steve Davis explores the reallocation of jobs as a result from the current shock, and the potential long-term economic consequences.
May 05, 2020
Who Can Work From Home?
Many workers are able to continue working without ever leaving home and risking exposure. Looking at which workers have this option reveals other insights. In this episode, Brent Neiman and Simon Mongey discuss their research quantifying who can work from home and who bears the costs of social distancing policies. 
Apr 30, 2020
The Value of A Life
Life is not priceless. But it’s also not cheap. Michael Greenstone describes how economics puts a value on life, and why it is so important to save as many lives as possible. Read more about this research here.
Apr 23, 2020
Introducing Pandemic Economics
As the COVID-19 pandemic has sent world economies into deep freeze, hosts Tess Vigeland, former host of public radio’s Marketplace, and Eduardo Porter, economics reporter for the New York Times, are interviewing top economists from the University of Chicago. Subscribe to this podcast produced by Stitcher and the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics for insights to help you navigate this moment. New episodes published weekly.
Apr 20, 2020