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The Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

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  • Brainerd, Elizabeth
  • Siegler, Mark V

Abstract

The 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed at least 40 million people worldwide and 675,000 people in the United States, far exceeding the combat deaths experienced by the US in the two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. Besides its extraordinary virulence, the 1918-19 epidemic was also unique in that a disproportionate number of its victims were men and women ages 15 and 44, giving the age profile of mortality a distinct ‘W’ shape rather than the customary ‘U’ shape, and leading to extremely high death rates in the prime working ages. We examine the impact of this exogenous shock on subsequent economic growth using data on US states for the 1919-30 period. Controlling for numerous factors including initial income, density, urbanization, human capital, climate, the sectoral composition of output, geography, and the legacy of slavery, the results indicate a large and robust positive effect of the influenza epidemic on per capita income growth across states during the 1920s.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3791.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3791

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Keywords: 1918; economic growth; flu; influenza;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Michael Grimm & Denis Cogneau, 2005. "The Measurement of Income Distribution Dynamics when Demographics are correlated with Income," Labor and Demography 0502003, EconWPA.
  2. Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Pichler, Stefan, 2012. "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger? The Impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic on Economic Performance in Sweden," Working Paper Series 911, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  3. Azomahou, Theophile, 2008. "The Economic Impact of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa," MERIT Working Papers 038, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  4. BOUCEKKINE, Raouf & LAFFARGUE, Jean-Pierre, 2007. "A theory of dynamics and inequalities under epidemics," CORE Discussion Papers 2007037, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Grimm, M., 2010. "Does inequality in health impede growth?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 501, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
  6. Raouf Boucekkine & Bity Diene & Theophile Azomahou, 2008. "Growth Economics of Epidemics: A Review of the Theory," Mathematical Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 1-26.
  7. Lars Jonung & Werner Roeger, 2006. "The macroeconomic effects of a pandemic in Europe - A model-based assessment," European Economy - Economic Papers 251, Directorate General Economic and Monetary Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  8. Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 774-811.
  9. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00586799 is not listed on IDEAS

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