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
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