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The Economic Impact of the Black Death

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  • Jedwab, Remi
  • Johnson, Noel
  • Koyama, Mark

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 towards 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

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  • Jedwab, Remi & Johnson, Noel & Koyama, Mark, 2020. "The Economic Impact of the Black Death," CEPR Discussion Papers 15132, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:15132
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    2. Noy, Ilan & Uher, Tomáš, 2021. "Economic consequences of pre-COVID-19 epidemics: A literature review," Working Paper Series 9457, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    3. David E. Bloom & Michael Kuhn & Klaus Prettner, 2020. "Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses," NBER Working Papers 27757, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Black Death; Cities; Demography; institutions; Long-run Growth; Malthusian Theory; Pandemics; Urbanization;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O0 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - General
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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