Joshua R. Goldstein, Ronald D. Lee

Bibliographic Information

NBER Working Paper No. 27043
Issued in April 2020
NBER Program(s):AG, HE, LS

Published: Joshua R. Goldstein & Ronald D. Lee, 2020. "Demographic perspectives on the mortality of COVID-19 and other epidemics," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 117(36), pages 22035-22041.

Available Formats


What would a hypothetical one million US deaths in the Covid-19 epidemic mean for mortality of individuals at the population level? To put estimates of Covid-19 mortality into perspective, we estimate age-specific mortality for an epidemic claiming for illustrative purposes one million US lives, with results scalable over a broad range of deaths. We calculate the impact on period life expectancy (down 3 years) and remaining life-years (12.3 years per death), which for one million deaths can be valued at six to 10 trillion dollars. The age-patterns of Covid-19 mortality observed in other countries are remarkably similar and exhibit the typical rate of increase by age of normal mortality. The scenario of one million Covid-19 deaths is similar in scale to the decades-long HIV/AIDS and opioid-overdose epidemics but considerably smaller than the Spanish Flu of 1918. Unlike HIV/AIDS and opioid epidemics, the Covid-19 deaths will be concentrated in months rather than spread out over decades.

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