Economists Join Together To Answer Key Policy Questions on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis

The UK is currently at the start of what will probably be the deepest recession in living memory. The government faces the daunting task of navigating a route through uncharted territory. Sound and non-partisan advice is needed to inform decision-makers across all parts of society, from government to individuals, about the choices they face in dealing with the crisis and the recovery. 



Tim Munday: How much will lifting lockdown will start to reverse the UK's economic slump? 

Johannes Abeler: Do we make informed decisions when sharing our personal data?

Michael McMahon: Why Uncertainty is so damaging for the economy? 

'Monetary financing': Is it happening and what are the dangers?

What is the size of the fiscal multiplier? 

Quantitative easing and monetary financing, what's difference?



The Economics Observatory (ECO) is a new cross-institutional initiative that seeks to answer key questions from policy-makers and the public about the economics of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis and possible routes to recovery. Drawing on expertise from a wide range of research organisations and Universities, and with funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), we will gather and evaluate the best possible data and evidence and use these as the basis for a large series of published Q & A briefings (‘articles’).

Economic research is essential to understand and respond to this massive public health challenge and the global economic crisis.  But it can be difficult for policy-makers and the public to interpret the key evidence and to understand where there is – and is not – consensus in the economics research community. We will explain where there is consensus, where there is intelligent debate and disagreement, and where we just don't have the answers (whether it is because of a lack of data or fundamental challenges of answering the question).

The articles are written for policy-makers, the media, the public, students and teachers who are interested in the economics of Covid-19 and the implications for households, organisations and public policy.

Articles are being added regularly and cover important questions such as:

  • The epidemic and the economy: what are the trade-offs? The Covid-19 health emergency has caused economic havoc on a scale not seen in living memory. It is important to understand the interactions between the epidemic and the economy to be able to deal with the difficult trade-offs facing policy-makers and the public.
  • Why is uncertainty so damaging for the economy? The Covid-19 pandemic and policy responses have made life much more uncertain for everyone – individuals, organisations and governments. What impact does all this uncertainty have on the economy and how can policy-makers respond?
  • What should we do about price gouging? The prices of a number of products in short supply during the Covid-19 crisis have risen sharply. Why do we see this practice of ‘price gouging’ in an emergency? Should we care? And what could be done about it?
  • How will the Covid-19 crisis affect the NHS? The lockdown was implemented largely to ‘save lives and protect the NHS’ amid fears of capacity being overwhelmed. What are likely to be the effects of the crisis on the supply of NHS healthcare, and on demand for healthcare, now and in the future?
  • Which firms and industries have been most affected by lockdown? Almost all UK businesses have been badly affected by the crisis, but some industries have been hit harder than others. Financial market data and surveys of firms themselves provide insights into the scale of the impact on sales, employment, supply chains and business uncertainty.
  • What is the likely future role of the state in the UK economy? Economic distress caused by the pandemic, the lockdown and the recession have required a big increase in public spending. How has the crisis affected the size of the state and the effectiveness of government policy?
  • When should schools re-open? Countries in Europe and elsewhere have taken very different strategies to getting children back to school after closures. What are the difficulties in making decisions about re-opening? And why is there so much variation among national approaches?
  • What is the impact of the crisis on UK university finances? The Covid-19 crisis is causing potentially large-scale financial problems for UK universities. It is likely to result in big changes in the way that the country’s higher education system is structured.
  • What are the lessons for today from running a wartime economy? The world continues to experience episodes that remind us of the profound disruptions of twentieth-century wartime. But how far does the war analogy stretch? Covid-19 has been able to disrupt our economy at a speed that no foreign enemy has ever matched.

This website and subsequent briefings are genuinely collaborative projects: at launch we have over 30 partner institutions involved in researching, writing and editing briefings and we intend to add to this list over time. We will act as a hub to bring together research from across economics to answer policy questions in a way that is easy to understand.



For more information and to sign up for news and alerts