Covid-19 Pandemic

The world now struggles to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and the impacts are rippling through the global economy.  Sound risk management is more important than ever.  At the Wharton Risk Center, we engage with our partners to meaningfully support management of evolving threats, such as this one.  Risk Center resources and contributions from our scholars will be added to this page as made available.

Insights from our Researchers

Article  | What Policies Address Both the Coronavirus Crisis and the Climate Crisis?

July 2020. Environmental and Resource Economics

The coronavirus pandemic has led many countries to initiate unprecedented economic recovery packages. Policymakers tackling the coronavirus crisis have also been encouraged to prioritize policies that help mitigate a second, looming crisis: climate change. In this article, Risk Center Affiliated Scholar and co-lead of the Business, Climate and Environment Lab, Arthur van Benthem and others identify and analyze policies that combat both the coronavirus crisis and the climate crisis.

Column  | A Better Remedy: Lawmakers must develop a public-private partnership to address insured losses from pandemics

June 2020. Best’s Review Risk Adviser.

The catastrophic impacts of the COVID-19 have presented challenges and opportunities for the insurance industry as to how to deal with business interruption (BI) losses by firms that did not have this coverage. This Risk Adviser column by Howard Kunreuther utilizes a framework developed at the Wharton Risk Center that proposes a private-public partnership to cover BI and other losses from future pandemics by businesses, the insurance industry and the federal government.

Essay  |  Catastrophic Risk Transfer in a Post-Pandemic World

May 2020. World Economic Forum.

Risk transfer tools have played a limited role in the pandemic, reflecting the fact that pandemics are too costly – to insurers and their customers. Still, there are lessons that can be learned from the risk transfer successes that have taken place during the pandemic. Read more about these lessons in this essay from Risk Center Executive Director Carolyn Kousky.

Op-Ed  |  Preserving Small Business in the Aftermath of the Coronavirus Catastrophe

May 4, 2020. BRINK.

Risk Center Executive Director Carolyn Kousky, Co-Director Howard Kunreuther and Senior Fellows Alexander Braun and Benjamin Collier offer their insights on public-private partnership opportunities and other policy approaches to business interruption due to the Coronavirus.

Op-Ed  |   Why We Need a Social Solidarity (i.e., Wealth) Tax to Recover from COVID-19

April 16, 2020. LinkedIn.

“While the $6.5b in philanthropic giving to the COVID-19 crisis has been heartening, it amounts to a drop in the bucket of the trillions of dollars that will be needed in short-, medium- and long-term crisis adjustment and recovery. Given the fiscal strains under which many national, state and local governments are already operating, new revenue sources will eventually be required.” Witold Henisz (Risk Center Senior Fellow) shares in his Op-Ed article on LinkedIn.

Op-Ed  |  How to fill a federal leadership vacuum: An interstate covid-19 compact

April 8, 2020. Washington Post.

Eric Orts (Risk Center Senior Fellow) and fellow Wharton professor Amy Sepinwall argue that an interstate compact would fill the vacuum of federal leadership. “States in a new compact would agree to uniform shutdown, quarantine and testing protocols. Their reward would be an interstate supply network that enhances their bargaining power and thwarts bidding wars and price gouging. The compact would increase access to testing, too.”

Podcast  |   Choiceology Bonus – Coping Amid the Crisis: With Guest Laurie Santos

April 6, 2020. Charles Schwab.

This special bonus episode of Choiceology with Katy Milkman (Risk Center Senior Fellow) looks to the science of happiness to see how we might mitigate the adverse impacts to our mental health and well-being—and maybe even cultivate good new habits that can help us when the crisis is over.

An edited version of Katy Milkman’s interview with Laurie Santos appeared in the Washington Post on April 20th. Read it here.

Op-Ed  & Podcast  |   What the Coronavirus Curve Teaches Us About Climate Change

March 26, 2020. Politico.

Howard Kunreuther (Co-Director of the Risk Center) and Paul Slovic (Risk Center Senior Fellow) compare the challenges of the coronavirus with those of climate change. “As with the coronavirus, we need to anticipate the climate crisis and act quickly and aggressively to minimize further damages before they overwhelm us.”

On April 7th, Dr. Kunreuther discussed this during an interview with Wharton Business Daily on Sirius XM. Read more or listen here.

The Behavioural Public Policy Blog featured this Op-Ed in a blog post on April 29th. Read it here.

Op-Ed   |   Can insurance lessen the economic costs of the coronavirus pandemic?

March 19, 2020. The Hill.

“While insurance typically provides financial assistance in response to a damaging event, innovative risk transfer solutions are now starting to be used to actually prevent a disaster or to halt cascading impacts in the economy.” Carolyn Kousky (Executive Director of the Risk Center) writes in this Op-Ed.

Interview   |   What does COVID-19 mean for your finances? 

March 18, 2020. The Philadelphia Citizen

Ben Keys (Risk Center Senior Fellow) is interviewed by The Philadelphia Citizen about the financial implications of COVID-19. “Policymakers need to communicate that any early efforts to keep the economy afloat are merely the start of their response, and be proactive about revisiting the size and scope of fiscal stimulus as this catastrophe plays out.”

Podcast   |   Coronavirus Disaster: Why Firms Should Lead the Recovery

March 3, 2020.  Knowledge@Wharton.

As the world reels under the shock, what role can companies play in leading the recovery from such disasters? Knowledge@Wharton discussed this question with Wharton management professors Michael Useem (Risk Center Senior Fellow), Tyler Wry, as well as George Washington University’s Luis Ballesteros. Their research indicates that corporations can play a positive role in the recovery from disasters like the coronavirus epidemic.

In The News

Monthly Loss of $431 Billion Spurs Insurance Claims Across U.S.

April 8, 2020. Bloomberg Markets.

Ben Collier (Risk Center Senior Fellow) quote: “They wouldn’t offer some of these contracts if they were required to cover pandemics,” said Benjamin Collier, an assistant professor in the risk, insurance and healthcare management department at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “They wouldn’t offer business interruption insurance at all, or in cases where they might be willing to, they would charge substantially different rates.”

Containing the Coronavirus: What’s the Risk to the Global Economy?

February 25, 2020. Knowledge@Wharton.

Howard Kunreuther quote: “Part of the rationale for these firms considering taking steps now is the high visibility of the coronavirus. The question is, what will they do? Will they undertake an assessment of the risk and ask what kind of risk-management strategies they can follow by examining the potential costs and benefits of undertaking these steps?”

Coronavirus ‘Hits All the Hot Buttons’ for How We Misjudge Risk

February 13, 2020. The New York Times.

Psychologists say that differing responses to coronavirus and the flu illustrate our shortcomings when it comes to evaluating danger.  The article includes multiple quotes from Paul Slovic (Risk Center Senior Fellow).

For additional recent quotes in the news from Risk Center scholars, please see our media page.


Wharton School Launches New Course on the Impact and Implications of COVID-19

March 11, 2020.  Wharton Press Release.

Wharton has developed a new course entitled “Epidemics, Natural Disasters, and Geopolitics: Managing Global Business and Financial Uncertainty.”  The six-week, half-credit course begins March 25, 2020 via remote instruction.  Course lecturers associated with the Risk Center include Carolyn Kousky (Executive Director), Howard Kunreuther (Co-Director), Sarah Light (Senior Fellow), and Katy Milkman (Senior Fellow). 

Ongoing Research

Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation in India

Is eating Chinese food risky? Can cow urine protect from an infection? Can homeopathy ward the virus away?  These are examples of a few viral hoaxes surrounding COVID-19 in India. As the country battles extreme poverty, large crowds, densely populated areas and a stretched health system, the wave of inaccuracy about the virus that has flooded Indians’ phones has the potential to threaten millions of lives. Political Science doctoral student, Sumitra Badrinathan is conducting new research that tests interventions to combat COVID-19 misinformation in India. Her research will explore these questions:

  • Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, why do pseudoscientific remedies to fight the virus abound social media in India?
  • Do cognitive biases motivate people to retain information congruent with their prior partisan and religious beliefs?
  • How can we effectively correct misinformed health beliefs,  particularly when they are rooted in tradition and difficult to change? Can targeted interventions that ease the distress caused by pressure to conform to belief systems or group norms motivate people to expend cognitive resources needed to correct misinformed beliefs?

Severity Judgments, Risk Judgments, and Prevention of Coronavirus

A doctoral student with the Wharton Risk Center is undertaking new research on risk perceptions and the current pandemic. Questions Josh Lewis is exploring include:

  • When people decide what preventative measures to take against coronavirus, do they focus more on the alleviated risk that they would face having taken those measures or on the heightened risks associated with business-as-usual?
  • How do people judge the severity of various coronavirus outbreaks when they know that case numbers are biased by the extent of testing?
  • How does their judgment of the severity of their local outbreak influence their willingness to donate to other causes which are neglected during that outbreak?