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Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the "Spanish" flu

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  • Sharp, Paul Richard
  • Pedersen, Maja Uhre
  • Lampe, Markus
  • Boberg-Fazlic, Nina

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 on data for Europe and find that excess deaths had a significant impact on trade policy, independent of the war. 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

  • Sharp, Paul Richard & Pedersen, Maja Uhre & Lampe, Markus & Boberg-Fazlic, Nina, 2020. "Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the "Spanish" flu," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 30673, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
  • Handle: RePEc:cte:whrepe:30673
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Trade;

    JEL classification:

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

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