The Economics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Poor Countries

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended health and living standards around the world. This article provides an interim overview of these effects, with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Economists have explained how the pandemic is likely to have different consequences for LMICs and demands distinct policy responses compared to those of rich countries. We survey the rapidly expanding body of empirical research that documents the pandemic’s many adverse economic and noneconomic effects in terms of living standards, education, health, and gender equality, which appear to be unprecedented in scope and scale. We also review research on successful and failed policy responses, including the failure to ensure widespread vaccine coverage in many LMICs, which is needed to end the pandemic. We close with a discussion of implications for public policy in LMICs and for the institutions of international governance, given the likelihood of future pandemics and other major shocks (e.g., climate).

DOI: 10.1146/annurev-economics-051520-025412

Year of Publication: