The Economic Consequences of R = 1: Towards a Workable Behavioural Epidemiological Model of Pandemics

Authors

  • Joshua S. Gans Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and NBER

Keywords:

Pandemic, SIR, Behavioural Models of Pandemics

Abstract

This paper reviews the literature on incorporating behavioural elements into epidemiological models of pandemics. While modelling behaviour by forward-looking rational agents can provide some insight into the time paths of pandemics, the non-stationary nature of Susceptible-Infected-Removed (SIR) models of viral spread makes characterisation of resulting equilibria difficult. Here I posit a shortcut that can be deployed to allow for a tractable equilibrium model of pandemics with intuitive comparative statics and also a clear prediction that effective reproduction numbers (that is, R) will tend towards 1 in equilibrium. This motivates taking R = 1 as an equilibrium starting point for analyses of pandemics with behavioural agents. The implications of this for the analysis of widespread testing, tracing, isolation and mask-use is discussed.

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Published

2022-01-24

Issue

Section

Public Policy Lessons conference - special issue