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Regional and Racial Inequality in Infectious Disease Mortality in U.S. Cities, 1900–1948

Author

Listed:
  • James J. Feigenbaum

    () (Boston University
    National Bureau of Economic Research)

  • Christopher Muller

    () (University of California, Berkeley)

  • Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

    () (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

In the first half of the twentieth century, the rate of death from infectious disease in the United States fell precipitously. Although this decline is well-known and well-documented, there is surprisingly little evidence about whether it took place uniformly across the regions of the United States. We use data on infectious disease deaths from all reporting U.S. cities to describe regional patterns in the decline of urban infectious mortality from 1900 to 1948. We report three main results. First, urban infectious mortality was higher in the South in every year from 1900 to 1948. Second, infectious mortality declined later in southern cities than in cities in the other regions. Third, comparatively high infectious mortality in southern cities was driven primarily by extremely high infectious mortality among African Americans. From 1906 to 1920, African Americans in cities experienced a rate of death from infectious disease that was greater than what urban whites experienced during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • James J. Feigenbaum & Christopher Muller & Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, 2019. "Regional and Racial Inequality in Infectious Disease Mortality in U.S. Cities, 1900–1948," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(4), pages 1371-1388, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:56:y:2019:i:4:d:10.1007_s13524-019-00789-z
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-019-00789-z
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Disease and Unease in New York City (Part I): Mortality Rates since 1800
      by Jason Barr in Skynomics Blog on 2020-06-16 12:15:11

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Philipp Ager & James J. Feigenbaum & Casper Worm Hansen & Hui Ren Tan, 2020. "How the Other Half Died: Immigration and Mortality in US Cities," NBER Working Papers 27480, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brian Beach & Karen Clay & Martin Saavedra, 2020. "The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and its Lessons for COVID-19," Working Papers 2020-15, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    3. Guillaume Chapelle, 2020. "The medium-term impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions. The case of the 1918 influenza in US cities," Sciences Po publications 112, Sciences Po.
    4. Brian Beach & Karen Clay & Martin H. Saavedra, 2020. "The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and its Lessons for COVID-19," NBER Working Papers 27673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mortality; Epidemiological transition; Infectious disease; Inequality; Economic history;

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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