NATURE. Assessing the impact of one million COVID-19 deaths in America: economic and life expectancy losses

Abstract. Between February 2020 and May 2022, one million Americans have died of COVID-19. To determine the contribution of those deaths to all-cause mortality in terms of life expectancy reductions and the resulting economic welfare losses, we calculated their combined impact on national income growth and the added value of lives lost. We estimated that US life expectancy at birth dropped by 3.08 years due to the million COVID-19 deaths. Economic welfare losses estimated in terms of national income growth supplemented by the value of lives lost, was in the order of US$3.57 trillion. US$2.20 trillion of these losses were in in the non-Hispanic White population (56.50%), US$698.24 billion (19.54%) in the Hispanic population, and US$579.93 billion (16.23%) in the non-Hispanic Black population. The scale of life expectancy and welfare losses underscores the pressing need to invest in health in the US to prevent further economic shocks from future pandemic threats.

The deaths contribute to US$3.57 trillion in economic welfare losses; US$2.20 trillion of the losses were due to deaths in the non-Hispanic White population (56.5%), US$698.24 billion to deaths in the Hispanic population (19.54%), and US$579.93 billion (16.23%) to deaths in the non-Hispanic Black population. When the excess mortality was valued using the HHS-recommended VSL value of US$11.59 million (US$5.41 million–US$17.65 million), losses amounted to US$9.82 trillion. When valued using an age specific VSL value, losses amounted to US$4.85 trillion. In the former case, the non-Hispanic White population contributed US$6.17 trillion (62.87%); in the latter case, the same population contributed US$2.84 trillion (58.59%). When valued using an age-, race-, and ethnic-group-dependent VSLY, losses amounted to US$4.38 trillion, with non-Hispanic White populations contributing US$2.88 trillion (65.82%) (see Table 2).

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