The potential tradeoff between health outcomes and economic impact has been a major challenge in the policy making process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemic-economic models designed to address this issue are either too aggregate to consider heterogeneous outcomes across socio-economic groups, or, when sufficiently fine-grained, not well grounded by empirical data. To fill this gap, we introduce a datadriven, granular, agent-based model that simulates epidemic and economic outcomes across industries, occupations, and income levels with geographic realism. The key mechanism coupling the epidemic and economic modules is the reduction in consumption demand due to fear of infection. We calibrate the model to the first wave of COVID-19 in the New York metropolitan area, showing that it reproduces key epidemic and economic statistics, and then examine counterfactual scenarios. We find that: (a) both high fear of infection and strict restrictions similarly harm the economy but reduce infections; (b) low-income workers bear the brunt of both the economic and epidemic harm; (c) closing non-customer-facing industries such as manufacturing and construction only marginally reduces the death toll while considerably increasing unemployment; and (d) delaying the start of protective measures does little to help the economy and worsens epidemic outcomes in all scenarios. We anticipate that our model will help designing effective and equitable non-pharmaceutical interventions that minimize disruptions in the face of a novel pandemic.


Pangallo, M., Aleta, A., Chanona, R., Pichler, A., Martín-Corral, D., Chinazzi, M., Lafond, F., Ajelli, M., Moro, E., Moreno, Y., Vespignani, A., and Farmer, J.D. 2022. The unequal effects of the health-economy tradeoff during the COVID-19 pandemic. arXiv:2212.03567.
Go to Document