Unmasking the Demand for Masks: Analytics of Mandating Coronavirus Masks

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This paper analytically examines the demand for surgical masks following the recent health precautions due to coronavirus. Using a simple linear demand curve and alternatively examining the impacts of requirements that mandate (a) the wearing of masks by frontline workers; (b) suggested but not required masking by the whole public; and (c) compulsory masking by the whole public. The impacts of the different scenarios on the price elasticity of demand are determined along with the slope (or the rate of change) of elasticity. Some of these results differ when a non-linear demand curve is considered instead. The equilibrium mask prices increase when masks are universally mandated, whereas the consumer surplus is higher when masks are recommended but not mandated. However, the ranking of consumer surplus is shown to be sensitive to the supply elasticity of masks. These considerations enable a structured means to view the demand implications of masking requirements and provide some food for policy thought.


This article was originally published as Rajeev K. Goel & Shoji Haruna, 2021. "Unmasking the demand for masks: Analytics of mandating coronavirus masks," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 72(3), pages 580-591, July.