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The Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic

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  • Brainerd, Elizabeth
  • Siegler, Mark V

Abstract

The 1918-19 influenza epidemic killed at least 40 million people worldwide and 675,000 people in the United States, far exceeding the combat deaths experienced by the US in the two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. Besides its extraordinary virulence, the 1918-19 epidemic was also unique in that a disproportionate number of its victims were men and women ages 15 and 44, giving the age profile of mortality a distinct ‘W’ shape rather than the customary ‘U’ shape, and leading to extremely high death rates in the prime working ages. We examine the impact of this exogenous shock on subsequent economic growth using data on US states for the 1919-30 period. Controlling for numerous factors including initial income, density, urbanization, human capital, climate, the sectoral composition of output, geography, and the legacy of slavery, the results indicate a large and robust positive effect of the influenza epidemic on per capita income growth across states during the 1920s.

Suggested Citation

  • Brainerd, Elizabeth & Siegler, Mark V, 2003. "The Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 3791, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3791
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. BOUCEKKINE, Raouf & LAFFARGUE, Jean-Pierre, 2007. "A theory of dynamics and inequalities under epidemics," CORE Discussion Papers 2007037, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    2. Raouf Boucekkine & Jean-Pierre Laffargue, 2008. "A theory of dynamics and inequalities under epidemics," Working Papers halshs-00586799, HAL.
    3. Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Pichler, Stefan, 2012. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? The impact of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic on economic performance in Sweden," Darmstadt Discussion Papers in Economics 211, Darmstadt University of Technology, Department of Law and Economics.
    4. Lars Jonung & Werner Roeger, 2006. "The macroeconomic effects of a pandemic in Europe - A model-based assessment," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 251, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    5. Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 774-811.
    6. Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Pichler, Stefan, 2014. "The impact of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic on economic performance in Sweden," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 1-19.
    7. Denis Cogneau & Michael Grimm, 2007. "The Measurement Of Income Distribution Dynamics When Demographics Are Correlated With Income," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 53(2), pages 246-274, June.
    8. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
    9. Thomas A. Garrett, 2009. "War And Pestilence As Labor Market Shocks: U.S. Manufacturing Wage Growth 1914-1919," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(4), pages 711-725, October.
    10. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4456 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Thomas A. Garrett, 2007. "Bird flu pandemic: history warns of economic pain, though some might gain," The Regional Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Oct, pages 10-11.
    12. Clay, Karen & Lewis, Joshua & Severnini, Edson R., 2015. "Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Mortality: Evidence from the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic," IZA Discussion Papers 9399, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. Azomahou, Theophile, 2008. "The Economic Impact of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa," MERIT Working Papers 038, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    14. Grimm, M., 2010. "Does inequality in health impede growth?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 19426, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    15. Landis MacKellar, 2007. "Pandemic Influenza: A Review," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(3), pages 429-451.
    16. Raouf Boucekkine & Bity Diene & Theophile Azomahou, 2008. "Growth Economics of Epidemics: A Review of the Theory," Mathematical Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(1), pages 1-26.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    1918; economic growth; flu; influenza;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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