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Death and Destitution : The Global Distribution of Welfare Losses from the COVID-19 Pandemic (English)

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about massive declines in well-being around the world. This paper seeks to quantify and compare two important components of those losses—increased mortality and higher poverty—using years of human life as a common metric. The paper estimates that almost 20 million life-years were lost to COVID-19 by December 2020. Over the same period and by the most conservative definition, more than 120 million additional years were spent in poverty because of the pandemic. The mortality burden, whether estimated in lives or years of life lost, increases sharply with gross domestic product per capita. By contrast, the poverty burden declines with per capita national income when a constant absolute poverty line is used, or is uncorrelated with national income when a more relative approach is taken to poverty lines. In both cases, the poverty burden of the pandemic, relative to the mortality burden, is much higher for poor countries. The distribution of aggregate welfare losses—combining mortality and poverty and expressed in terms of life-years —depends on the choice of poverty line(s) and the relative weights placed on mortality and poverty. With a constant absolute poverty line and a relatively low welfare weight on mortality, poorer countries are found to bear a greater welfare loss from the pandemic. When poverty lines are set differently for poor, middle-income, and high-income countries and/or a greater welfare weight is placed on mortality, upper-middle-income and rich countries suffer the most.


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    Ferreira,Francisco H. G., Sterck,Olivier Christian Brigitte, Mahler,Daniel Gerszon, Decerf,Benoit Marie A

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    Policy Research Working Paper

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    The World Region,

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    Death and Destitution : The Global Distribution of Welfare Losses from the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Keywords

    global distribution; escape poverty; development research group; per capita income level; headcount measure of poverty; choice of poverty line; per capita poverty line; marginal rate of substitution; quality health care; quality of health care; asian financial crisis; in poverty; loss of life; absolute poverty line; extreme poverty line; specific poverty line; median poverty line; estimates of poverty; unit of measurement; aggregate welfare; million people; real national income; change in employment; burden of poverty; bundle of goods; death by age; distribution of population; poverty across country; distribution of household; constant poverty line; aggregate social welfare; social welfare loss; change in welfare; case of health; per capita term; possible poverty line; distribution of welfare; relative poverty line; total welfare cost; national poverty line; effect on people; health care system; Population Age structure; richer countries; infection rate; household survey; regression line; human life; income category; individual utility; life expectancy; increased mortality; mortality data; fatality rate; household consumption; real gdp; population pyramid; poverty consequences; linear regression; available data; income loss; exchange rate; negative slope; Exchange Rates; poverty estimate; measurement error; simple model; public debate; premature mortality; tax haven; age range; shadow price; national account; social distance; income gain; Demographic Transition; mean income; mortality statistic; consumption level; cross-country differences; historical development; missing data; household income; scatter plot; historical evidence; health systems; logarithmic scale; advanced economy; old population; poverty effect; mortality estimate; present value; old people; population size; welfare costs; cross-country variation; economic shock; negative growth; severe cases; global poverty; income range; ill health; income dimension; premature death; Research Support; welfare effect; development policy; open access; Economic Mobility; increase poverty; lower rate; high poverty; important component; social scientist; data gaps; traditional methods; model yield; school crisis; empirical counterpart; Child development; particular country; principal source; excess mortality; income class; data limitation; positive value; excess death; empirical evidence; popular media; welfare function; income decline



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Ferreira,Francisco H. G. Sterck,Olivier Christian Brigitte Mahler,Daniel Gerszon Decerf,Benoit Marie A

Death and Destitution : The Global Distribution of Welfare Losses from the COVID-19 Pandemic (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 9673,COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.