In this paper we analyze the dynamics among past major pandemics, economic growth, inequality, and social unrest. We provide evidence that past major pandemics, even though much smaller in scale than COVID-19, have led to a significant increase in social unrest by reducing output and increasing inequality. We also find that higher social unrest, in turn, is associated with lower ourput and higher inequality, pointing to a vicious cycle. Our results suggest that without policy measures, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely increase inequality, trigger social unrest, and lower future output in the years to come.
Ms. Margaux MacDonald, Mr. Roberto Piazza, Johannes Eugster, and Ms. Florence Jaumotte
Based on an empirical gravity model of sectoral bilateral trade, we uncover three features of bilateral trade balances. First, the difficulty of gravity models in fitting the observed level of bilateral balances is likely due to the presence of unobservable bilateral trade costs. Second, the model fit improves drastically when we focus on changes over time of the balances. Third, using a log linear approximation we show that changes in bilateral trade balances over the past two decades were driven almost entirely by changes in the same macro factors that determine countries’ aggregate balances – changes in bilateral trade costs, including tariffs, played therefore only a negligible role. This conclusion provides new support for the view that bilateral balances are, for practical purposes, not relevant to the conduct of macroeconomic policy.