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ESMT Working Paper

Informing the public about a pandemic

ESMT Working Paper No. 20-03 (R2)
Forthcoming in Management Science.
Francis de Véricourt, Huseyin Gurkan, Shouqiang Wang (2021)
Health and environment
Public health, epidemic control, information design, strategic behavior
This paper explores how governments may efficiently inform the public about an epidemic to induce compliance with their confinement measures. Using an information design framework, we find the government has an incentive to either downplay or exaggerate the severity of the epidemic if it heavily prioritizes the economy over population health or vice versa. Importantly, we find that the level of economic inequality in the population has an effect on these distortions. The more unequal the disease's economic impact on the population is, the less the government exaggerates and the more it downplays the severity of the epidemic. When the government weighs the economy and population health sufficiently equally, however, the government should always be fully transparent about the severity of the epidemic.

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