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Last updated: January 27, 2021


Gig Workers during the COVID-19 Crisis in France: Financial Precarity and Mental Well-Being

We set out to explore how precarious workers, particularly those employed in the gig economy, balance financial uncertainty, health risks, and mental well-being. We surveyed and interviewed precarious workers in France during the COVID-19 crisis, in March and April 2020. We oversampled gig economy workers, in particular in driving and food delivery occupations (hereafter drivers and bikers), residing in metropolitan areas. These workers cannot rely on stable incomes and are excluded from the labor protections offered to employees, features which have been exacerbated by the crisis. We analyzed outcomes for precarious workers during the mandatory lockdown in France as an extreme case to better understand how financial precarity relates to health risks and mental well-being. Our analysis revealed that 3 weeks into the lockdown, 56% of our overall sample had stopped working and respondents had experienced a 28% income drop on average. Gig economy drivers reported a significant 20 percentage point larger income decrease than other workers in our sample. Bikers were significantly more likely to have continued working outside the home during the lockdown. Yet our quantitative analysis also revealed that stress and anxiety levels were not higher for these groups and that bikers in fact reported significantly lower stress levels during the lockdown. While this positive association between being a biker and mental health may be interpreted in different ways, our qualitative data led to a nuanced understanding of the effect of gig work on mental well-being in this population group..


COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trend

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many governments to implement lockdowns. While lockdowns may help to contain the spread of the virus, they may result in substantial damage to population well-being. We use Google Trends data to test whether the lockdowns implemented in Europe and America led to changes in well-being related topic search terms. Using differences-in-differences and a regression discontinuity design to evaluate the causal effects of lockdown, we find a substantial increase in the search intensity for boredom in Europe and the US. We also found a significant increase in searches for loneliness, worry and sadness, while searches for stress, suicide and divorce on the contrary fell. Our results suggest that people’s mental health may have been severely affected by the lockdown.

Anxiety increases the willingness to be exposed to covid-19 risk among young adults in France

The COVID-19 outbreak has generated significant uncertainty about the future, especially for young adults. Health and economic threats, as well as more diffuse concerns about the consequences of COVID-19, can trigger feelings of anxiety, leading individuals to adopt uncertainty-reducing behaviours. We tested whether anxiety was associated with an increase in willingness to be exposed to the risk of COVID-19 infection (WiRE) using an online survey administered to 3,110 French individuals aged between 18 and 35 years old during the lockdown period (April 2020). Overall, 56.5% of the sample declared a positive WiRE. Unemployment was associated with a higher WiRE (+8.2 percentage points (pp); 95% CI +0.9-15.4 pp). One standard deviation increases in income (+1160€) and psychological state anxiety raised the WiRE by +2.7 pp (95% CI: +1.1-4.4 pp) and +3.9 pp (95% CI: +1.6-6.2 pp), respectively. A one standard deviation increase in perceived hospitalisation risk was associated with a -4.1 pp (95% CI: -6.2-2.1 pp) decrease in the WiRE. Overall, our results suggest thatboth the prospect of economic losses and psychological anxiety can undermine young adults’ adherence to physical distancing recommendations. Public policies targeting young adults must consider both their economic situation and their mental health, and they must use uncertainty-reducing communication strategies.


Taking a wellbeing years approach to policy choice

Every day, policy makers must decide whether a policy is desirable. They do so by examining its impact on a range of outcomes. But the problem is how to aggregate these disparate outcomes. For example, as covid-19 cases rise again, some lockdown measures are gradually being reintroduced across the UK. These policy choices will lead to outcomes that are good (such as fewer deaths from covid-19, less commuting, better air quality) and some that are bad (unemployment, income losses, loneliness, domestic abuse). How can policy makers aggregate these disparate effects in order to arrive at an overall assessment? To do so requires a “common currency” with which to measure all the effects. The currency we propose is the change in years of human wellbeing resulting from the policy.


Special Issue: Environmental Economics of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Katrin Millock (PSE, CNRS) has co-edited a special issue of Environmental and Resource Economics, that includes both theoretical models and econometric analyses of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the natural environment, and that offers policy ideas for green recovery. In particular, the articles in the issue explore the links between air pollution and COVID-19 health impacts, implications for climate change mitigation policies, and priorities for green recovery policies.