As the COVID-19 pandemic has sent world economies into deep freeze, hosts Tess Vigeland, former host of public radio’s Marketplace, and Eduardo Porter, economics reporter for the New York Times, are interviewing top economists from the University of Chicago. Subscribe to this podcast for insights to help you navigate this moment. New episodes published weekly.

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Unedited Transcript

NEWS ANCHOR 1: Italy has just recorded a large jump in coronavirus deaths.

NEWS ANCHOR 2: People of Wuhan suffered so much, so many people died.

NEWS ANCHOR 3: In the weeks since COVID-19 hit New York and New Jersey.

NEWS ANCHOR 4: Global stock markets have plunged over fears about the coronavirus.

NEWS ANCHOR 5: It’s almost like a meteor hit the entire planet and we have to now deal with the fact that we’ve been knocked off our axis.

EDUARDO PORTER: As COVID-19 spread around the world, we were stunned. I’m Eduardo Porter. I’ve been writing about economics at the New York Times for 20 years.

TESS VIGELAND: And I’m Tess Vigeland. I was a host for Public Radio’s Marketplace. Both of us, as reporters, had front row seats to what we thought at the time were the stories of our lifetime. 9/11. The Great Recession. But this is so far beyond those, especially in the global nature of what this is going to do to people’s finances and to how they view their futures. There is no roadmap now.

EDUARDO PORTER: You know, I have a 15-year-old and I have a three-year-old. And how this is going to change the world for them, what the world is going to look like when they’re in the labor force, I bet you is going to be entirely different from anything that I experienced.

TESS VIGELAND: I don’t see any solutions out there. That’s what scares me. And that’s what I’m hoping maybe some of the economists can help with.

EDUARDO PORTER: And so Tess and I are talking with economists at the University of Chicago. We believe their insights can help us navigate our way through this global crisis.

TESS VIGELAND: We’ve come together to host this podcast, “Pandemic Economics,” from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics and Stitcher. For example, in one episode we speak with Michael Greenstone about his research on the economic benefits of a social distancing policy.

MICHAEL GREENSTONE: The net result of that exercise, the lives saved, adds up to $8 trillion. It’s very, very hard to think of any policy that in any time or any circumstance could provide such a large benefit to the American people.

TESS VIGELAND: Michael Greenstone is the director of the Becker Friedman Institute.

EDUARDO PORTER: They have some of the top economic thinkers in the country. It’s a super deep bench and a super rich cast.

MICHAEL GREENSTONE: Turning the minds loose of people here, the 300 PhD economists on campus, I think, has the potential to identify solutions that are not readily apparent.

EDUARDO PORTER: What is this going to mean for the global economy?

CHANG-TAI HSIEH: Every single country in the world needs to borrow. But fundamentally they’re up against the world constraint of money.

EDUARDO PORTER: How will businesses survive?

STEVE LEVITT: The worst thing that can happen to landlords is that all of the tenants go out of business.

EDUARDO PORTER: We’re talking about who is affected most.

BRENT NEIMAN: So even though 37% of jobs can be done from home, those 37% are disproportionately high paying. It’s evidence, again, that there will be an unequal impact, an unequal toll, for poorer earners that earn less than the average.

TESS VIGELAND: This is a health care crisis and an economic crisis.

EDUARDO PORTER: So we have a series of interlocked problems. And the economic questions are central to how we work our way out of this down to how we understand this.

TESS VIGELAND: I hope we can help provide some sort of framework, some sort of hope, quite frankly. Subscribe now to the “Pandemic Economics” podcast from Stitcher and the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute. We’re planning to release episodes weekly. Stay safe out there. And stay healthy.