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The long-term consequences of the global 1918 influenza pandemic: A systematic analysis of 117 IPUMS international census data sets

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  • Sebastian Vollmer
  • Juditha Wójcik

Abstract

Several country-level studies, including a prominent one for the United States, have identified long-term effects of in-utero exposure to the 1918 influenza pandemic (also known as the Spanish Flu) on economic outcomes in adulthood. In-utero conditions are theoretically linked to adult health and socioeconomic status through the fetal origins or Barker hypothesis. Historical exposure to the Spanish Flu provides a natural experiment to test this hypothesis. Although the Spanish Flu was a global phenomenon, with around 500 million people infected worldwide, there exists no comprehensive global study on its long-term economic effects. We attempt to close this gap by systematically analyzing 117 Census data sets provided by IPUMS International. We do not find consistent global long-term effects of influenza exposure on education, employment and disability outcomes. A series of robustness checks does not alter this conclusion. Our findings indicate that the existing evidence on long-term economic effects of the Spanish Flu is likely a consequence of publication bias.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Vollmer & Juditha Wójcik, 2017. "The long-term consequences of the global 1918 influenza pandemic: A systematic analysis of 117 IPUMS international census data sets," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 242, Courant Research Centre PEG.
  • Handle: RePEc:got:gotcrc:242
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    File URL: http://www2.vwl.wiso.uni-goettingen.de/courant-papers/CRC-PEG_DP_242.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Boberg-Fazlic, Nina & Ivets, Maryna & Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese, 2017. "Disease and Fertility: Evidence from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Sweden," Working Paper Series 1179, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    2. 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.
    3. David M. Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "Education and Health: Evaluating Theories and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 12352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
    5. G�nther Fink & Margaret McConnell & Sebastian Vollmer, 2014. "Testing for heterogeneous treatment effects in experimental data: false discovery risks and correction procedures," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 44-57, January.
    6. Richard E. Nelson, 2010. "Testing the Fetal Origins Hypothesis in a developing country: evidence from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(10), pages 1181-1192, October.
    7. Douglas Almond & Janet Currie, 2011. "Killing Me Softly: The Fetal Origins Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 153-172, Summer.
    8. Siddharth Chandra, 2013. "Mortality from the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 in Indonesia," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 67(2), pages 185-193, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabriella Conti & Giacomo Mason & Stavros Poupakis, 2019. "Developmental origins of health inequality," IFS Working Papers W19/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    2. Daniel de Kadt & Johan Fourie & Jan Greyling & Elie Murard & Johannes Norling, 2020. "The causes and consequences of the 1918 influenza in South Africa," Working Papers 12/2020, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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