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Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the “Spanish” flu

Author

Listed:
  • Nina Boberg-Fazlic

    (University of Southern Denmark)

  • Markus Lampe

    (Vienna University of Economics and Business
    CEPR)

  • Maja Uhre Pedersen

    (University of Southern Denmark)

  • Paul Sharp

    (University of Southern Denmark
    CEPR
    CAGE)

Abstract

The impact of COVID-19 on recent tendencies towards international isolationism has been much speculated on but remains to be seen. We suggest that valuable evidence can be gleaned from the “Spanish” flu of 1918–20. It is well-known that the world fell into a protectionist spiral following the First World War, but scholars have almost exclusively ignored the impact of the pandemic. We employ a difference-in-differences strategy and find that the flu had a significant impact on trade policy, independent of the war. In our preferred specification, a one standard deviation increase in excess deaths during the outbreak implied 0.022 percentage points higher tariffs subsequently, corresponding to an increase of one third of a standard deviation in tariffs. Health policy should aim to avoid the experience of the interwar period and consider the international macroeconomic impact of measures (not) taken.

Suggested Citation

  • Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Markus Lampe & Maja Uhre Pedersen & Paul Sharp, 2021. "Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the “Spanish” flu," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 8(1), pages 1-9, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:8:y:2021:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-021-00833-7
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-021-00833-7
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    1. Henriques, Sofia Teives & Sharp, Paul & Tsoukli, Xanthi & Vedel, Christian, 2021. "Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability: Danish Butter Factories in the Face of Coal Shortages," CEPR Discussion Papers 16769, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • I19 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Other
    • N74 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: 1913-

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