Four prominent economists, all faculty members of Boston College's Master of Science in Applied Economics program, discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy during a live webinar earlier this month that drew some 140 attendees from 21 U.S. states and 14 countries.

Moderated by MSAE program director Aleksandar Tomic, associate dean for strategy, innovation, and technology at BC's Woods College of Advancing Studies, the program featured Lawrence Fulton, associate professor and undergraduate programs director at Texas State University; Diana Bowser, associate professor at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economics and global research Chair at The Conference Board; and Can Erbil, professor of the practice of economics at Boston College.

COVID-19 impacts are multidimensional, and do not lend themselves to simple analysis, Tomic said.

"To understand the economic impact, one must understand the processes driving epidemiological forecasts which inform public policy as well as implications for public health systems whose capacity also plays a role in decisions regarding closing and re-opening of business," he said. "In addition, there will be behavior changes that will affect the economy for a while to come. Finally, there is the modelling of the economic impacts themselves.

"It is this holistic approach to analysis and problem solving that we foster in our program, and we are very lucky to have experts like Diana, Larry, Ataman and Can as our faculty. They work on these issues in the 'real world' where they analyze data to inform decisions every day. 

"Their insights in this discussion help us to unpack what is occurring, and is likely to occur, in our health care systems and in the broader economy, as we attempt to identify and adapt to rapidly changing situations," he said. "And their commitment in the classroom equips our students to tackle complex issues and analysis head-on."

The panelists addressed a wide range of issues including health economics, the modeling of COVID-19 cases and hospital demand, and future effects on the economy worldwide.

Among the takeaways:

  • Panelists noted the challenges for accurate modeling based on available information. While, as Bowser said, countries that quickly deployed strong public health and social distancing measures seem to be containing the spread and therefore experiencing a lesser impact on their health care systems, the quality of data the U.S. is receiving varies, complicating efforts to apply it to forecasting, Fulton said.

  • Consumers' behavior may be evolving, said Erbil, as they rethink some of their acquisition habits. "They're starting to question; do we really need this? Is this really necessary?," he said, which will likely have ramifications for understanding economic agents moving forward.

  • Ozyildirim interjected a note of optimism, suggesting that more innovation will emerge from the current situation, perhaps leading to a more positive trajectory for economies around the world.

For more information about the M.S. in Applied Economics, visit the program website.

University Communications | May 2020