The Economics of Face Masks:
Why the economic value of a face mask is $56.14
Are you a good reader? What skills do you employ while reading?
Follow through the tabs below to try using the different reading skills.
Good readers provide themselves a reason and motivation to read. They do this by thinking critically, for example by questioning what they read, and asking themselves questions which they answer as they read the text.
Read the article's title and subtitle at the top of the page. What questions does this bring to mind? What do you want to know more about? For example, you might consider the questions below.
- Have you ever worn a face mask that cost $56.14? Probably not!
- How much do they usually cost?
- How do you think these economists might have calculated that number?
Now go to the next tab and read Part 1.
After a brutal first six months of the year, governments across the world are hoping for an economic bounce-back. Rich-world GDP fell by about 10% in the first half of 2020. Yet much has changed since—including that more people are now wearing masks. Economists, obsessed with translating everything into GDP, wonder if more widespread face-covering could help the recovery.
Good readers pause at various points in an article to make predictions. After reading Part 1 of the article what kinds of predictions come to mind? For example, we might ask ourselves "Can wearing face masks actually make an impact on the economy? And if so, in what ways? How could the economists possibly calculate this number accurately?"
Now go to the next tab and check your predictions by reading Part 2.
The thinking goes that masks can, in part, substitute for lockdowns. People wearing them need not be discouraged as much from using public transport. More shops and offices might be able to reopen, albeit while practising social distancing.
Calculations from Goldman Sachs, a bank, suggest that a 15 percentage-point rise in the share of the population that wears masks would reduce the daily growth of cases by about one percentage point. That obviates the need for lockdown measures that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from gdp. The Economist took those calculations a step further. According to our reckoning, an American wearing a mask for a day is helping prevent a fall in gdp of $56.14. Not bad for something that you can buy for about 50 cents apiece.
Finally, good readers make connections. As you read the final paragraph in Part 3, compare what you read to your experience, your country, your life. Doing so will not only make what you read more meaningful, but it will also help you better remember the content.
These economic benefits suggest that governments should do even more to nudge the minority of people who still forgo masks. English shoppers without a face-covering risk a fine of £100-3,200 ($130-4,200). Authorities in Turkey and Tuscany have handed out free ones to citizens. Perhaps governments should do more—such as pay people to wear them. After all, the large economic benefits of doing so have finally been unmasked.
Why the economic value of a face mask is $56.14. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2020/08/22/why-the-economic-value-of-a-face-mask-is-5614.