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Charts of the Week: Real estate effects, UI myths, health insurance during coronavirus

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In this week’s Charts of the Week, three policy areas that are impacted by the response to the coronavirus pandemic: housing, unemployment insurance, and health insurance. See all of Brookings’s research on the domestic and global response to COVID-19.

How COVID-19 is affecting Washington, DC AREA real estate

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“This past March,” Jenny Schuetz writes, “housing sales in Washington, D.C. essentially fell off a cliff.” Although home sales anywhere are cyclical, Schuetz observes, home sale data in the nation’s capital (and the entire region around D.C.) show a substantial decline in March compared to averages from the same month in previous years, and compared to January and February 2020. And yet median home sale prices increased in March relative to previous months. “The timing of recovery may be uncertain,” Schuetz concludes, “but the data presented here show clear signs that housing markets will not escape the COVID-19 crisis unscathed.”

Debunking myths about COVID-19 unemployment insurance

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Annelies Goger, Tracy Hadden Loh, and Nicole Bateman examine how “a debate is raging about whether UI [unemployment insurance] benefits under the CARES Act will slow down recovery by discouraging people from going back to work.” In their piece they explain the common myths many have about the new benefit program, which some business owners have claimed incentivizes workers to not return to work. Moreover, the authors show that these UI benefits do not even achieve full wage replacement in many of the largest U.S. metro areas. “The country must pursue economic and safety goals in tandem to achieve a successful recovery,” Goger, Hadden Loh, and Bateman write, and “to frame them in opposition to each other presents a false dichotomy.”

Non-traditional workers have uncertain health insurance

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The Hamilton Project’s Ryan Nunn and Jimmy O’Donnell present data on who has health insurance—and from what source—based on their type of employment. So-called “non-traditional workers,” those in alternative work arrangements like contractors, temps, and on-call workers, are less likely than others to have employer-provided insurance than traditional workers. These are also the workers more likely to be negatively affected by COVID-19 responses. “Health insurance is arguably the most important fringe benefit a worker gets from their employer,” Nunn and O’Donnell write. “The fact that workers in alternative work arrangements tend to (1) be covered at lower rates than traditional employees and (2) receive their insurance from government sources rather than employer-provided plans and spouses is suggestive of the precarious nature of their employment.”

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