June 17, 2020, Paper, "We build a publicly available platform that tracks economic activity at a granular level in real time using anonymized data from private companies. We report weekly statistics on consumer spending, business revenues, employment rates, and other key indicators disaggregated by county, industry, and income group. Using these data, we study the mechanisms through which COVID-19 aﬀected the economy by analyzing heterogeneity in its impacts across geographic areas and income groups. We ﬁrst show that high-income individuals reduced spending sharply in mid-March 2020, particularly in areas with high rates of COVID-19 infection and in sectors that require physical interaction. This reduction in spending greatly reduced the revenues of businesses that cater to high-income households in person, notably small businesses in aﬄuent ZIP codes. These businesses laid oﬀ most of their low-income employees, leading to a surge in unemployment claims in aﬄuent areas. Building on this diagnostic analysis, we use event study designs to estimate the causal eﬀects of policies aimed at mitigating the adverse impacts of COVID. State-ordered reopenings of economies have little impact on local employment. Stimulus payments to low-income households increased consumer spending sharply, but had modest impacts on employment in the short run, perhaps because very little of the increased spending ﬂowed to businesses most aﬀected by the COVID-19 shock. Paycheck Protection Program loans have also had little impact on employment at small businesses. These results suggest that traditional macroeconomic tools – stimulating aggregate demand or providing liquidity to businesses."
Non-HKS Author Website - Nathaniel Hendren