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Masks and Trolleys in San Francisco during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic


  • François R. Velde


I analyze daily data on deaths and on mobility (ridership of electric railways) in the city of San Francisco in 1918−1919, using a model that combines a standard epidemiological component, agents who choose economic activity taking infection risk into account, and exogenous restrictions on activity (lockdowns). Masks were imposed twice but restrictions on activity were imposed only once. I use this to estimate the impact of masks on transmission. The behavioral feedback is important in capturing the dynamics of the epidemic, and masks appear to have been effective.

Suggested Citation

  • François R. Velde, 2022. "Masks and Trolleys in San Francisco during the 1918 Influenza Epidemic," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 112, pages 205-208, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:apandp:v:112:y:2022:p:205-08
    DOI: 10.1257/pandp.20221079

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • L92 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Railroads and Other Surface Transportation
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N72 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-


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