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The Economic Impact of the Black Death

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  • Remi Jedwab
  • Noel D. Johnson
  • Mark Koyama

Abstract

The Black Death was the largest demographic shock in European history. We review the evidence for the origins, spread, and mortality of the disease. We document that it was a plausibly exogenous shock to the European economy and trace out its aggregate and local impacts in both the short run and the long run. The initial effect of the plague was highly disruptive. Wages and per capita income rose. But, in the long run, this rise was only sustained in some parts of Europe. The other indirect long-run effects of the Black Death are associated with the growth of Europe relative to the rest of the world, especially Asia and the Middle East (the Great Divergence), a shift in the economic geography of Europe toward the northwest (the Little Divergence), the demise of serfdom in western Europe, a decline in the authority of religious institutions, and the emergence of stronger states. Finally, avenues for future research are laid out.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Jedwab & Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2022. "The Economic Impact of the Black Death," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 132-178, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:60:y:2022:i:1:p:132-78
    DOI: 10.1257/jel.20201639
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    7. De Magalhaes, Leandro & Giovannoni, Francesco, 2022. "War and the rise of parliaments," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 148(C).
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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