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Putting the Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

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Cost of COVID-19

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Putting the Economic Cost of COVID-19 in Perspective

When it comes to the toll on human life, mental well-being, and any long-term complications, the true cost of COVID-19 can be difficult to quantify.

That said, from a purely economic angle, researchers can and do examine these things—as well as economic data like unemployment and lost GDP, to assign dollar figures to the pandemic.

Using data from a study out of Harvard University, these visualizations focus on putting the economic cost of COVID-19 in the U.S. in perspective. To help us understand the immense price associated with a pandemic, the study looked at other comparables like the costs of running America’s longstanding war on terror.

Cost of COVID-19 vs. post 911 wars

The Cost of COVID-19

Since the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in March 2020, job loss has been one of the most significant consequences. Unemployment claims in the U.S. have recently reached a total of 60 million, while lost GDP is estimated to be around $7.6 trillion.

Unemployment, uncertainty, lost loved ones, and lost social connections, have led to spikes in depression and anxiety. In April 2020, around 40% of U.S. adults reported having at least one of these mental illnesses. Based on the sheer number of people struggling, the cost of mental health impairment could be as high as $1.6 trillion, according to these researchers.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP)$7,592
Premature Death$4,375
Long-Term Health Impairment$2,572
Mental Health Impairment$1,581
Total$16,120

The economic value of a human life can be put in terms of ‘statistical lives’, a notion used in both American and global health policy. While human life is priceless, the value tied to one using this metric sits between $7-$10 million. Even when using the lower end of the scale, the cost of premature death due to COVID-19 is estimated to be $4.4 trillion.

Finally, when looking at the long-term healthcare costs that could impact people who contract COVID-19, the price comes out to almost $2.6 trillion. These costs will go on for decades as certain lifelong conditions can emerge out of COVID-19, like respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Many of these conditions could also end up causing premature deaths, drawing out the total cost of COVID-19 even further.

The Cost of War

cost of war example

Both a global pandemic and a war have long-term health consequences and are extremely pricey.

The estimated cost of the post-9/11 wars rises to over $6 trillion. This is measured by the spending of the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and USAID. The estimate also takes into consideration current and future spending on medical and disability care for veterans, the cost of war appropriations and spending, the estimated interest on borrowing for different departments, and the spending the Department of Homeland Security has done in order to prevent and respond to terrorism.

CategoryCost (Billions)
Department of Defense$1,959
State Department/USAID$131
Estimated Interest on Borrowing for DOD and State Dept OCO Spending $925
Estimated Increases to DOD Base Budget Due to Post-9-11 Wars$803
"OCO for Base” a new category of spending in FY2019 and FY2020$100
Medical and Disability Care for Post-9/11 Veterans $437
Homeland Security Spending for Prevention and Response to Terrorism $1,054
Total War Appropriations and War-Related Spending through FY 2020$5,409
Estimated Future Obligations for Veterans Medical and Disability FY2020 –FY2059 $1,000
Total War-Related Spending through FY2020 and Obligations for Veterans$6,409

Medical and disability care for veterans from the post-9/11 wars specifically comes out to $437 billion, with estimated future obligations for their care going up to $1 trillion.

The increases to the Department of Defense’s budget was $803 billion thanks to the post 9/11 wars, and the Department of Homeland Security has spent more $1.05 trillion on terrorism prevention and response.

While the costs associated with war are immense, and while the consequences of fighting in a war are usually lifelong, the estimated price is still about $10 trillion cheaper than the cost of COVID-19 in the United States.

Throwing Money at the Problem?

The short-term solution to COVID-19 seems to be vaccine investment, with the U.S. currently purchasing more than one billion doses. Vaccines could spell the return to a more normal life, both in terms of physical health and the health of the economy.

While economic recovery is on the horizon, the U.S—and other nations around the globe—will continue to pay the cost of COVID-19 for years to come.

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Politics

Mapped: The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

At the national level, Canada and China are top U.S. trading partners. While this generally extends to the state level, there are some surprises too.

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The Top Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

The U.S. is highly dependent—perhaps unsurprisingly—on Canada and Mexico for trade. The country’s top trading partner is Mexico, making up 14.8% of total trade.

However, the country’s neighbors to the north and south are not the only trade partners that U.S. states rely heavily upon. This map from HowMuch.net uses flags to show which country each U.S. state is importing the most from. Below, there is an additional graphic showing where each state is exporting the highest amount of goods and services to.

Who are the States Importing From?

The U.S. has a few natural and obvious trading partners, whether due to geographical closeness or strong economic ties.

The obvious candidates for top trading partners have already been mentioned, Canada and Mexico—and these two do show up at the state level as well. For example, Michigan gets 40.9% of its imports from Mexico, and Montana receives a whopping 87% of its imports from Canada.

Some other interesting trade partnerships stand out, like the Carolinas and Germany. Trade ties between Hawaii and Japan also make sense for historic reasons.

StateTop CountryTotal State Import (Millions USD)Share of Total State Imports
Alabama 🇲🇽 Mexico$4,16116.3%
Alaska🇰🇷 South Korea$83635.0%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$8,97835.0%
Arkansas🇨🇳 China$3,16036.6%
California🇨🇳 China$130,29132.9%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$2,92824.3%
Connecticut🇨🇦 Canada$4,03122.4%
Delaware🇨🇭 Switzerland$1,92721.1%
District of Columbia🇨🇦 Canada$7413.7%
Florida🇨🇳 China$11,21214.7%
Georgia🇨🇳 China$20,19420.4%
Hawaii🇯🇵 Japan$29115.1%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,19521.7%
Illinois🇨🇳 China$48,32431.0%
Indiana🇮🇪 Ireland$11,55818.1%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$2,38726.6%
Kansas🇨🇳 China$2,06419.7%
Kentucky🇲🇽 Mexico$6,88212.5%
Louisiana🇷🇺 Russia$2,61112.6%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$3,16766.6%
Maryland🇩🇪 Germany$3,99313.0%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$7,77922.2%
Michigan🇲🇽 Mexico$47,47340.9%
Minnesota🇨🇳 China$7,57726.9%
Mississippi🇨🇳 China$3,93824.9%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,50024.0%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$3,44287.0%
Nebraska🇨🇦 Canada$87623.5%
Nevada🇨🇳 China$4,10831.8%
New Hampshire🇨🇦 Canada$1,39420.1%
New Jersey🇨🇳 China$14,30212.4%
New Mexico🇨🇳 China$1,49332.6%
New York🇨🇭 Switzerland$33,12621.5%
North Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$9,20815.1%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$1,78162.3%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$10,62416.2%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$4,35540.2%
Oregon🇨🇦 Canada$2,95117.0%
Pennsylvania🇨🇳 China$13,47015.9%
Puerto Rico🇮🇪 Ireland$9,06242.7%
Rhode Island🇩🇪 Germany$1,52517.3%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$6,22015.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$42833.9%
Tennessee🇨🇳 China$20,30524.3%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$88,72635.8%
Utah🇲🇽 Mexico$4,29427.6%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$1,67763.5%
Virginia🇨🇳 China$6,56622.7%
Virgin Islands🇵🇹 Portugal$17427.7%
Washington🇨🇦 Canada$12,77226.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,02535.2%
Wisconsin🇨🇳 China$5,55420.7%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$69563.7%

However, one country in particular stands out on this map—China.

While the USMCA trade agreement has created an easy gateway for necessary goods and services to flow across North America, no country—not even the U.S.—can escape the need for mass imports from the world’s top exporter.

China and the U.S. have an imbalanced trade relationship, with China buying much fewer goods from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from them. In fact, China’s monthly trade surplus with the country sat at $31.8 billion as of May 2021.

Who are the States Exporting to?

After looking at the top import partners by state, let’s dive in to where the U.S. states are exporting the most.

Trading Partner of Every U.S. State

One thing that is noticeable is that China shows up much less on this map, further exemplifying the trade imbalance. In other words, while many states’ top import partner is China, they are not reciprocating as the country’s top export partner.

The only states that export their largest shares to China are:

  • Oregon – 38.1%
  • Alaska – 25.5%
  • Washington – 22.1%
  • Alabama – 18.1%
  • Louisiana – 18.1%

The majority are exporting to their North American neighbors. For example, North Dakota sends 84.6% of its exports just across the northern border.

StateTop CountryTotal State Export (Millions USD)Share of total State Exports
Alabama 🇨🇳 China$3,10218.1%
Alaska🇨🇳 China$1,17625.5%
Arizona🇲🇽 Mexico$3635.5%
Arkansas🇨🇦 Canada$1,14822.1%
California🇲🇽 Mexico$24,07815.4%
Colorado🇨🇦 Canada$1,27815.4%
Connecticut🇩🇪 Germany$2,18915.9%
Delaware🇨🇦 Canada$61915.8%
D.C.🇶🇦 Qatar$89932.4%
Florida🇧🇷 Brazil$3,5387.7%
Georgia🇨🇦 Canada$5,14613.3%
Hawaii🇦🇺 Australia$5115.8%
Idaho🇨🇦 Canada$1,18434.8%
Illinois🇨🇦 Canada$13,26124.8%
Indiana🇨🇦 Canada$11,08031.4%
Iowa🇨🇦 Canada$3,46027.4%
Kansas🇲🇽 Mexico$2,07820.0%
Kentucky🇨🇦 Canada$6,55026.5%
Louisiana🇨🇳 China$10,77918.1%
Maine🇨🇦 Canada$1,22952.8%
Maryland🇨🇦 Canada$1,58112.5%
Massachusetts🇨🇦 Canada$2,74611.0%
Michigan🇨🇦 Canada$17,34139.4%
Minnesota🇨🇦 Canada$4,82824.0%
Mississippi🇨🇦 Canada$2,08220.3%
Missouri🇨🇦 Canada$4,45334.9%
Montana🇨🇦 Canada$54437.9%
Nebraska🇲🇽 Mexico$1,63923.5%
Nevada🇨🇭 Switzerland$2,25621.8%
New Hampshire🇩🇪 Germany$75113.8%
New Jersey🇨🇦 Canada$7,22919.0%
New Mexico🇲🇽 Mexico$2,19759.5%
New York🇨🇦 Canada$13,77322.3%
North Carolina🇨🇦 Canada$5,88120.7%
North Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$4,38884.6%
Ohio🇨🇦 Canada$17,27338.4%
Oklahoma🇨🇦 Canada$1,45227.0%
Oregon🇨🇳 China$9,52238.1%
Pennsylvania🇨🇦 Canada$9,69925.9%
Puerto Rico🇳🇱 Netherlands$2,88917.2%
Rhode Island🇨🇦 Canada$41017.1%
South Carolina🇩🇪 Germany$4,08213.5%
South Dakota🇨🇦 Canada$52438.0%
Tennessee🇨🇦 Canada$5,81820.7%
Texas🇲🇽 Mexico$89,04631.9%
Utah🇬🇧 United Kingdom$8,90650.3%
Vermont🇨🇦 Canada$91838.3%
Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$2,71716.5%
Virgin Islands🇳🇱 Netherlands$9015.2%
Washington🇨🇳 China$9,12622.1%
West Virginia🇨🇦 Canada$1,28328.1%
Wisconsin🇨🇦 Canada$6,22630.4%
Wyoming🇨🇦 Canada$22519.3%

Trade Going Forward

The trade war that started during the tenure of former U.S. president Donald Trump is still ongoing and tariffs set by the U.S. are not expected to be lifted by president Joe Biden, as tensions have expanded beyond just trade issues.

These tariffs, however, have not helped to rectify the significant trade imbalance between the two countries. The states are still extremely reliant on imports from China, and it is not a reciprocal relationship.

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Money

Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

There are over 18 million living veterans in the U.S., but how many are ultra wealthy? This visual ranks the richest veterans in America.

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Ranked: The Richest Veterans in America

The U.S is home to 724 billionaires, many of whom have taken on immense risks in the financial world. 16 of these wealthy individuals have also taken on the risks that come with serving in the U.S. military.

These veteran billionaires are worth a collective $81.4 billion and have served in posts ranging from Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to infantrymen in the Second World War. This visual, using data from Forbes, ranks the richest living American veterans.

This visual categorizes the individuals by either the military branch or war served in depending on what was applicable or determinable.

I Want You for the U.S. Army

According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, there are around 18 million veterans in the U.S. Of these 18 million, less than 0.01% can claim the title of billionaire.

NameNet Worth (Billions, USD)Industry War / Unit Served
Donald Bren$15.3Real Estate Marine Corps
Edward Johnson III$10.3Finance & InvestmentsArmy
Ralph Lauren$7.1Fashion & RetailArmy
Richard Kinder$7.0EnergyVietnam War
Charles Dolan & family$6.1Media & EntertainmentWWII, Airforce 
Fred Smith$5.7Logistics Vietnam War, Marine Corps
Charles B. Johnson$4.9Finance & Investments Army
Ted Lerner & family$4.8Real Estate WWII
Julian Robertson Jr.$4.5Finance & Investments Navy
John Paul DeJoria$2.7Fashion & Retail Navy
H. Ross Perot Jr.$2.7Real Estate Airforce
Bob Parsons$2.2Technology Vietnam War, Marine Corps
David H. Murdock$2.1Food & BeverageWWII
S. Daniel Abraham$2.0Food & BeverageWWII, Army
Charlie Munger$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII, Army Air Corps
George Joseph$2.0Finance & InvestmentsWWII

Six of the above veteran billionaires served in WWII. They are some of the last surviving veterans of the historic war which was fought by 16 million Americans—today, only around 325,000 WWII veterans are still alive.

George Joseph, of Mercury Insurance Group, piloted a B17 Bomber plane in WWII, and completed around 50 missions. Warren Buffett’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, served in the Army Air Corps in the early 1940s.

Richard Kinder (Kinder Morgan Inc.), Fred Smith (FedEx), and H. Ross Perot Jr. (Hillwood Investment Properties) each served in the Vietnam war.

One notable figure, Ralph Lauren, whose name is synonymous with his clothing products, served in the Army branch for two years in the early 1960s.

Taking on Financial Risk

Billionaire wealth continues to grow in America. Most of these veteran billionaires saw their net worths increase from 2020 to 2021, as, typically, wealth begets wealth. Here’s a look at the changes in net worth of the top five richest veterans who experienced increases:

  • Edward Johnson III: +$4.9 Billion
  • Ralph Lauren: +$1.4 Billion
  • Richard Kinder: +$1.8 Billion
  • Charles Dolan & Family: +$1.5 Billion
  • Fred Smith: +$3.0 Billion

The majority of these veteran billionaires are in the finance industry and some are tied to well-known companies, but they didn’t always have billions on hand to help them exponentially grow their fortunes.

David Murdock was a high school dropout, and after serving in WWII, had no money to his name. He took over a failing company called Dole, and eventually gained the moniker of ‘pineapple king’ after reviving the business.

S. Daniel Abraham, who was an infantryman in WWII, went on to found Thompson Medical. Their main product was Slimfast, which he later sold to Unilever for $2.3 billion in cash in the early 2000s.

Bob Parsons, who received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, started out his professional career as a CPA. He later founded the enormous domain giant, Go Daddy. He has claimed that his time in the military helped him succeed in business.

Peace and Prosperity

We currently live in one of the most peaceful and prosperous times in history, with wars like WWII feeling to many like a story from the past — but for others these conflicts were defining moments for their generation.

While many veterans struggle to readjust to civilian life, on average pre-9/11 veterans have reported fewer difficulties compared to post-9/11 veterans, and some have even managed to reach the highest levels of financial success.

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