COVID-19 in the Western Hemisphere
By Scott Sumner
Tyler Cowen recently made this claim:
That is the abstract of a new NBER paper by Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky, and Tao Zha. You will note that when it comes to Covid-19 cases, the superior performance Europe had enjoyed over the United States seems to be evaporating.
I view case data as unreliable, especially when making international comparisons. I prefer mortality data, which shows the US to be doing far worse than Europe, a gap that continues to widen dramatically:
In fairness, deaths lag infections by several weeks, so it’s possible that the US/Europe gap will soon begin to narrow. My prediction, however, is that a month from now the gap will be much wider than today. I further predict that when vaccines become available (probably in 2021) the gap will be still wider. And I predict that studies will show that the gap reflects more than just different definitions of Covid-19 deaths, that excess death data will present a similar picture.
This graph is quite striking in that is shows that Covid-19 is currently a mostly Western Hemisphere problem. The absolute number of deaths in countries like India is fairly large, but in per capita terms most of the deaths are occurring in the Western Hemisphere.
Western Hemisphere countries don’t have a lot in common. The US is rich and Honduras is poor. One thing these countries do have in common is high murder rates—by global standards. Of course Canada is the exception. But notice that Covid-19 deaths rates in Canada resemble Europe more than other Western Hemisphere countries. Perhaps Canada should be viewed as a European country stuck in the Western Hemisphere.
PS. Elsewhere I’ve argued that America increasing resembles what used to be called a ‘banana republic’. Perhaps that term in no longer PC, but the phenomenon hasn’t gone away.