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Francisco H. G. Ferreira ─ Lives and Livelihoods: Estimates of the Global Mortality and Poverty Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Email WatsonEvents@brown.edu to register for this virtual event.

This paper evaluates the global welfare consequences of increases in mortality and poverty generated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Increases in mortality are measured in terms of the number of years of life lost (LY) to the pandemic. Additional years spent in poverty (PY) are conservatively estimated using growth estimates for 2020 and two different scenarios for its distributional characteristics. Using years of life as a welfare metric yields a single parameter that captures the underlying trade-off between lives and livelihoods: how many PYs have the same welfare cost as one LY. Taking an agnostic view of this parameter, estimates of LYs and PYs are compared across countries for different scenarios. Three main findings arise.

First, as of early June 2020, the pandemic (and the observed private and policy responses) has generated at least 68 million additional poverty years and 4.3 million years of life lost across 150 countries. The ratio of PYs to LYs is very large in most countries, suggesting that the poverty consequences of the crisis are of paramount importance. Second, this ratio declines systematically with GDP per capita: poverty accounts for a much greater share of the welfare costs in poorer countries. Finally, the dominance of poverty over mortality is reversed in a counterfactual herd immunity scenario: without any policy intervention, LYs tend to be greater than PYs, and the overall welfare losses are greater.

Development and Governance Seminar

Francisco H. G. Ferreira is the Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies and Director (designate) of the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics. He is also affiliated with the Department of Social Policy at LSE.

Francisco, also known as Chico, is an economist working on the measurement, causes and consequences of inequality and poverty, with an emphasis on developing countries in general and Latin America in particular. Some of his recent work has focused on the definition and measurement of inequality of opportunity. His work has been published widely, including in the Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Development Economics, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Review of Income and Wealth, Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Economic Inequality, the World Bank Economic Review and World Development. His research has been awarded prizes including the Richard Stone Prize in Applied Econometrics and the Kendrick Prize from the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth.