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We develop a model of optimal lockdown policy for a social planner who balances population health with short-term wealth accumulation. The unique solution depends on tolerable infection incidence and social network structure. We then use unique data on nursing home networks in the US to calibrate the model and quantify state-level preference for prioritizing health over wealth. We also empirically validate simulation results derived from comparative statics analyses. Our findings suggest that policies that tolerate more virus spread (laissez-faire) increase state GDP growth and COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. The detrimental effects of laissez-faire policies are more potent for nursing homes that are more peripheral in networks, nursing homes in poorer counties, and nursing homes that operate on a for-profit basis. We also find that US states with Republican governors have a higher tolerable incidence level, but these policies tend to converge with a high death count.


© The Author(s) 2022

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

Journal of Population Economics



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Finance Commons



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