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Liberty Street Economics
September 25, 2020

Investigating the Effect of Health Insurance in the COVID-19 Pandemic



Investigating the Effect of Health Insurance in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Does health insurance improve health? This question, while apparently a tautology, has been the subject of considerable economic debate. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has acquired a greater urgency as the lack of universal health insurance has been cited as a cause of the profound racial gap in coronavirus cases, and as a cause of U.S. difficulties in managing the pandemic more generally. However, estimating the effect of health insurance is difficult because it is (generally) not assigned at random. In this post, we approach this question in a novel way by exploiting a natural experiment—the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion by some states but not others—to tease out the causal effect of a type of health insurance on COVID-19 intensity.

September 24, 2020

The Official Sector’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Moral Hazard



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Third of three posts

Any time the Federal Reserve or the official sector more broadly provides support to the economy during a crisis, the intervention raises concerns related to moral hazard. Moral hazard can occur when market participants do not bear the negative consequences of the risks they take. This lack of consequences can encourage even greater risks, due to the expectation of future government help. In this post, we consider the potential for moral hazard stemming from the official sector’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and explain why moral hazard concerns were likely more severe in 2008.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Pandemic | Permalink | Comments ( 0 )

September 23, 2020

Market Failures and Official Sector Interventions



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Second of three posts

In the United States and other free market economies, the official sector typically has minimal involvement in market activities absent a clear rationale to justify intervention, such as a market failure. In this post, we consider arguments for official sector intervention, focusing on the market failure arising from externalities related to business closures. These externalities are likely to be particularly high for closures arising from pandemic-related economic disruptions. We discuss how the official sector, including institutions such as Congress and the Treasury, can increase social welfare by acting to minimize the fixed costs of business start-up and failure, including the costs associated with unemployment, beyond the level set by private markets alone.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Pandemic | Permalink | Comments ( 0 )

September 22, 2020

Expanding the Toolkit: Facilities Established to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic



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First of three posts

The Federal Reserve’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in its size and scope. In a matter of months, the Fed has, among other things, cut the federal funds rate to the zero lower bound, purchased a large amount of Treasury securities and agency mortgage‑backed securities (MBS) and, together with the U.S. Treasury, introduced several lending facilities. Some of these facilities are very similar to ones introduced during the 2007-09 financial crisis while others are completely new. In this post, we argue that the new facilities, while unprecedented, are a natural extension of the Fed’s toolkit, as they operate through similar economic mechanisms to prevent self-reinforcing bad outcomes. We also explain why these new facilities are particularly useful as part of the response to the pandemic, which is an economic shock very different from a financial crisis.

September 21, 2020

How Did State Reopenings Affect Small Businesses?



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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 spending, reopenings had positive and significant effects in the short term on small business revenues, the number of active merchants, and the number of employees working in small businesses. It is important to stress that we are not expressing any views in this post on the normative question of whether, when, or how states should loosen or tighten restrictions aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

September 18, 2020

Did State Reopenings Increase Consumer Spending?



Editor’s note:  We have clarified the description of data used for the analysis since this post was first published (September 23, 5:27 p.m.)

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The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has had a profound impact on economic activity. Beginning in March, most states imposed severe restrictions on households and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. This was followed by a gradual loosening of restrictions (“reopening”) starting in April. As the virus has re-emerged, a number of states have taken steps to reverse the reopening of their economies. For example, Texas and Florida closed bars again in June, and Arizona additionally paused operations of gyms and movie theatres. Taken together, these measures raise the question of how closures and reopenings affect consumer spending. In this post, we investigate how much consumer spending increased after the reopenings. It is important to stress that we are not expressing any views on the normative question of whether, when, or how states should loosen or tighten restrictions aimed at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted by Blog Author at 10:03 AM in Macroecon , Pandemic | Permalink | Comments ( 2 )

What’s Up with the Phillips Curve?



U.S. inflation used to rise during economic booms, as businesses charged higher prices to cope with increases in wages and other costs. When the economy cooled and joblessness rose, inflation declined. This pattern changed around 1990. Since then, U.S. inflation has been remarkably stable, even though economic activity and unemployment have continued to fluctuate. For example, during the Great Recession unemployment reached 10 percent, but inflation barely dipped below 1 percent. More recently, even with unemployment as low as 3.5 percent, inflation remained stuck under 2 percent. What explains the emergence of this disconnect between inflation and unemployment? This is the question we address in “What’s Up with the Phillips Curve?,” published recently in Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.

August 27, 2020

Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in the Region



Tracking the Spread of COVID-19 in the Region

The New York Fed today unveiled a set of charts that track COVID-19 cases in the Federal Reserve’s Second District, which includes New York, Northern New Jersey, Fairfield County Connecticut, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These charts, available in the Indicators section of our Regional Economy webpage, are updated daily with the latest data on confirmed COVID-19 cases from The New York Times, which compiles information from state and local health agencies. Case counts are measured as the seven-day average of new reported daily cases and are presented on a per capita basis to allow comparisons to the nation and between communities in the region. Recent data indicate that after spiking to extraordinary levels in April, new cases have remained relatively low and stable in and around New York City. Cases didn’t reach nearly as high in upstate New York, and have held fairly low in recent weeks. By contrast, cases have been trending higher in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since mid-July.

August 26, 2020

How Does the Liquidity of New Treasury Securities Evolve?



How Does the Liquidity of New Treasury Securities Evolve?

In a recent Liberty Street Economics post, we showed that the newly reintroduced 20-year bond trades less than other on-the-run Treasury securities and has similar liquidity to that of the more interest‑rate‑sensitive 30-year bond. Is it common for newly introduced securities to trade less and with higher transaction costs, and how does security trading behavior change over time? In this post, we look back at how liquidity evolved for earlier reintroductions of Treasury securities so as to gain insight into how liquidity might evolve for the new 20-year bond.

Posted by Blog Author at 7:00 AM in Financial Markets | Permalink | Comments ( 3 )

August 24, 2020

Explaining the Puzzling Behavior of Short-Term Money Market Rates



Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has dramatically increased the supply of bank reserves, effectively adopting a floor system for monetary policy implementation. Since then, the behavior of short-term money market rates has been at times puzzling. In particular, short-term rates have been surprisingly firm in recent months, despite the large increase in reserves by the Fed as a part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic. In this post, we provide evidence that both the supply of reserves and the supply of short-term Treasury securities are important factors for explaining short-term rates.

About the Blog
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.

The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.

Liberty Street Economics does not publish new posts during the blackout periods surrounding Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.


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