By Mike Walden
Even if COVID-19 continues with its variants, medical experts hope the virus becomes less deadly and disruptive. In other words, we learn to live with it.
As a result, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of studies are being published on how we coped with COVID-19 and what we can learn if we face another pandemic. One way to do this is to compare how states perform during COVID-19 on a number of important metrics.
A recent study was written by three economists and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). The NBER is not a national agency. It is a non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1920. It is one of the most prestigious economic “think tanks” in the country. So when the NBER publishes a study, I pay attention.
While there have been numerous federal government policies, programs, and funding to combat the pandemic, our federal system has enabled all 50 states and Washington, D.C.. customize some of their own policies, including masking, closures, school operations, and vaccine availability. Therefore, there were 51 different localities (50 states plus Washington, DC) that the authors had to compare for their results in the fight against COVID-19.
The authors focused on three categories of outcomes: economy, education, and deaths. For the economy, the authors used two measures: the total number of months of unemployment per worker in the state from April 2020 at the start of the pandemic through the end of 2021, and the depth of the recession caused by the pandemic.
The impact of the pandemic on education was measured by the percentage of public education in each state that took place in person at schools rather than remotely. This measure was used because many experts and parents argued that remote learning for children during COVID-19 was not as beneficial to students’ academic outcomes as in-person learning.
For deaths, the per capita death rate over the past two COVID-19 years was used, but only after adjusting the figures for age and health factors, such as the prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the state.
So what did the study find, specifically for North Carolina? On both economic measures, North Carolina ranked 17and on measuring unemployment and 19and for the depth of the COVID-19 recession, where higher ranking means better performance. Translated, the results mean that among the 51 states plus Washington, D.C..North Carolina had the 17and the lowest total number of months of unemployment per worker and the 19and mildest COVID-19 recession. Montana had the best unemployment performance and South Dakota had the least severe recession. At the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey had the worst unemployment performance and Connecticut had the deepest recession.
North Carolina’s ranking on in-person student teaching was not as impressive. State ranked 34and, meaning 33 other states had a higher percentage of students receiving in-person instruction during the pandemic. Wyoming had the highest percentage of in-person instruction, while Washington, DC had the lowest percentage.
North Carolina’s highest ranking was in age- and health-adjusted COVID-19 deaths per capita, where the state ranked 7and, meaning only six states had lower adjusted COVID-19 deaths per capita. The best performing state for deaths was Hawaii, while the worst performing state was Arizona.
The authors also combined the individual rankings for each measure into a single overall ranking. North Carolina’s overall ranking was 13andmeaning the state had the 13and best performance during the pandemic among the fifty states and Washington, DC using all measures developed by the authors. Utah placed first in the combined standings and New Jersey came in last.
With 51 locations, North Carolina’s 13th place ranking puts the state in the top 25%. Among North Carolina’s immediate neighbors, only South Carolina ranked 12th. Georgia placed 19th.andTennessee was at 24and position and Virginie placed 36and.
As the economy progresses, ranking state performance during the pandemic can become very important. Rankings could become a major factor in business and household location decisions. It will take years, if not decades, for the memories of the COVID-19 pandemic to fade. Households and businesses will be motivated to move to states that have weathered the pandemic well compared to other states. The study published by the NBER strongly suggests that North Carolina is in the “coping well” category.
Economists agree that the future economy will go through major changes in what businesses do, how people work, and how and where people live. Being in a state that has handled the pandemic better than most other states should give that state an edge in dealing with these changes. Is North Carolina such a state? You decide.
Dr. Mike Walden is William Neal Reynolds Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University.
READ NEWS AND EVENTS HERE.