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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Achieving universal high-quality internet access would boost economic output by $160 billion a year, a new paper estimates.

Why it matters: The internet and remote working technology cushioned the economic blow during the pandemic, but millions of Americans still lack quality online connections. Closing that gap could enhance labor productivity in a future where more work will be done from home.

The big picture: In the paper, released Tuesday morning by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, researchers found that moving to universal high-quality internet access would increase earnings-weighted labor productivity by an estimated 1.1% in the coming years.

  • That's due in part to the fact that the researchers project that remote work will account for approximately one out of every five workdays in the post-pandemic era for the economy as a whole, with higher levels for more educated and highly compensated workers.

By the numbers: The researchers found that between May 2020 and April 2021, subpar internet access reduced earnings-weighted productivity by 3%.

  • During the trough of the pandemic-driven economic crash, in the second quarter of 2020, economic output fell by 11%.
  • "If we had an 8% drop instead of an 11% drop [with universal internet access], that would have been a big deal," says Steven Davis, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a co-author of the paper.
  • "There are costs to not having that flexibility, and there are benefits to having it," he adds.

Of note: While Americans on the lower end of the earnings curve are more likely to have subpar internet access, the researchers found that the productivity gains from universal access would disproportionately flow to those earning between $50,000 and $200,000 a year.

  • That's largely because "at the bottom end of the distribution, folks often don't have good internet access, but they're largely doing jobs that can't be done from home anyway," says Davis.

The catch: The researchers haven't yet done a cost-benefit analysis for achieving universal internet access, though they plan to tackle one soon.

Go deeper

Hope King, author of Closer
Oct 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

Earnings season is here

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The third-quarter earnings season is going to be telling. We all expected monster numbers across the board out of Q2 results — but this time around, some companies will distinguish themselves more than others for how they’ve managed the escalating supply chain headaches and effects of the Delta variant.

Why it matters: The blistering pace of economic growth is expected to have slowed in Q3. That will show up earnings, which began trickling out last week.

21 mins ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker