Publication Type

When more delivers less: Comparing the US and French COVID-19 crisis responses

Policy Briefs 20-9


The US package of measures to help households hit by the economic shock from the COVID-19 crisis, including the Paycheck Protection Program, is almost twice as large in proportion of GDP as the French package, but it has proven less effective in curbing unemployment because of poor design and implementation. In contrast, the increase in the unemployment rate in France has been five times less than the increase in the United States. Cohen-Setton and Pisani-Ferry dive beneath the unreliable headline numbers to assess the effectiveness of government support provided to households in March–May 2020 in the two countries. They conclude that the French approach (mirrored in some other European countries) delivered a bigger bang for the buck. But the fact that the US approach has fallen short should not diminish the significance of the policy shift signaled by the enactment of measures to maintain household income.

Data Disclosure:

The data underlying this analysis are available here [zip].