Did the Paycheck Protection Program work as designed?

Following the rollout of the program, some have questioned the distribution of those funds—Chicago Booth’s João Granja, Constantine Yannelis, and Eric Zwick and MIT’s Christos Makridis, for instance, find that businesses in areas hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout were actually less likely to receive PPP funds than businesses elsewhere. But Washington University’s John Barrios says that the program was designed to mirror the distribution of payroll across the country, rather than anticipating which areas would need the most help. And while it’s fair to scrutinize, question, or criticize the design and goals of the program, Barrios says, the PPP does appear to have been implemented as intended, with PPP funds distributed broadly in line with payroll levels throughout the US.

Civic Capital and adherence to social distancing

A number of factors may contribute to how closely an individual adheres to social-distancing guidelines put forward by authorities, with local pandemic conditions, risk tolerance, and political partisanship among them. But John Barrios of Washington University, in research conducted with Chicago Booth’s Luigi Zingales, Northwestern’s Efraim Benmelech and Paola Sapienza, and Rice University’s Yael V. Hochberg, finds there’s another relevant factor: civic capital, a measure Barrios describes as having to do with trust in institutions. The research indicates that in US locations where civic capital is higher—as measured by voter participation—people’s response to the loosening of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions was muted, suggesting that some measure of compliance didn’t require the full force of law. Where civic capital is lower, on the other hand, the data show that people began shrugging off social-distancing mandates even before they were lifted.

Why partisanship affected Americans’ pandemic perceptions

As the COVID-19 pandemic began its spread across the United States, politicians and pundits were divided on how great the public-health threat was. Washington University’s John Barrios says that divide was reflected in the social-distancing behavior of individuals, whose risk perceptions appeared to be informed by media commentators and the leaders of one party or the other.

How the gig economy could support pandemic recovery

The pandemic has hit certain parts of the gig economy hard—many people are more reluctant to get into a stranger’s car, for instance, and may well remain so for some time after the pandemic ends. But other parts of the gig economy, particularly services such as food delivery that facilitate social distancing, have surged. Washington University’s John Barrios says that with unemployment at historic levels, the gig economy could play an important role in helping workers keep certain professional skills from atrophying, maintaining their human capital for an eventual return to non-gig work.

Partisanship and the COVID-19 Pandemic Webinar

Economic Effects of COVID-19 Workshop series of webinars to explore and disseminate the latest research on the economic implications of COVID-19.