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Pandemics, Places, and Populations: Evidence from the Black Death

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Listed:
  • Remi Jedwab

    (George Washington University)

  • Noel D. Johnson

    (George Mason University)

  • Mark Koyama

    (George Mason University)

Abstract

The Black Death killed 40% of Europe’s population between 1347-1352, making it one of the largest shocks in the history of mankind. Despite its historical importance, little is known about its spatial effects and the effects of pandemics more generally. Using a novel dataset that provides information on spatial variation in Plague mortality at the city level, as well as various identification strategies, we explore the short-run and long-run impacts of the Black Death on city growth. On average, cities recovered their pre-Plague populations within two centuries. In addition, aggregate convergence masked heterogeneity in urban recovery. We show that both of these facts are consistent with a Malthusian model in which population returns to high-mortality locations endowed with more rural and urban fixed factors of production. Land suitability and natural and historical trade networks played a vital role in urban recovery. Our study highlights the role played by pandemics in determining both the sizes and placements of populations.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Jedwab & Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2019. "Pandemics, Places, and Populations: Evidence from the Black Death," Working Papers 2019-3, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2019-3
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    Cited by:

    1. Jedwab, Remi & Johnson, Noel & Koyama, Mark, 2020. "Medieval Cities Through the Lens of Urban Economic Theories," CEPR Discussion Papers 14828, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rodríguez Caballero, Carlos Vladimir, 2020. "Growth, war, and pandemics: Europe in the very long-run," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH 30574, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    3. Testa, Patrick A., 2021. "Shocks and the spatial distribution of economic activity: The role of institutions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 183(C), pages 791-810.
    4. Pol Antras & Stephen J Redding & Esteban Rossi Hansberg, 2020. "Globalization and Pandemics," Working Papers 267, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    5. Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, 2021. "Pandemic Economics," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 20401.
    6. Raphaël Franck, 2022. "Labor Scarcity, Technology Adoption and Innovation: Evidence from the Cholera Pandemics in 19th Century France," CESifo Working Paper Series 9528, CESifo.
    7. Cervellati, Matteo & Lazzaroni, Sara & Prarolo, Giovanni & Vanin, Paolo, 2019. "Political Geography and Pre-Industrial Development: A Theory and Evidence for Europe 1000-1850," CEPR Discussion Papers 13719, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés & Wang, Han, 2021. "Local institutions and pandemics: City autonomy and the Black Death," CEPR Discussion Papers 16593, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Edward L. Glaeser, 2021. "Urban Resilience," NBER Working Papers 29261, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jedwab, Remi & Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2022. "Medieval cities through the lens of urban economics," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    11. Koyama, Mark, 2022. "Introduction to the special issue on culture, institutions, and religion in economic history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 201(C), pages 105-114.
    12. Michele Valsecchi & Ruben Durante, 2020. "Internal migration and the spread of Covid-19," Working Papers w0276, New Economic School (NES).
    13. Carlos Álvarez-Nogal & Leandro Prados de la Escosura & Carlos Santiago-Caballero, 2020. "Economic effects of the Black Death: Spain in European perspective," Investigaciones de Historia Económica - Economic History Research (IHE-EHR), Journal of the Spanish Economic History Association, Asociación Española de Historia Económica, vol. 16(04), pages 35-48.
    14. Chambru, Cédric, 2020. "Weather shocks, poverty and crime in 18th-century Savoy," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    15. Fabian Siuda & Uwe Sunde, 2021. "Disease and demographic development: the legacy of the plague," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 1-30, March.
    16. Desierto, Desiree & Koyama, Mark, 2020. "The Political Economy of Status Competition: Sumptuary Laws in Preindustrial Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 14407, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Lin, Jeffrey & Rauch, Ferdinand, 2022. "What future for history dependence in spatial economics?," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    18. Bosker, Maarten, 2022. "City origins," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    19. Maciej Stefański, 2022. "GDP effects of pandemics: a historical perspective," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 63(6), pages 2949-2995, December.
    20. Edward L Glaeser, 2022. "Urban resilience," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 59(1), pages 3-35, January.
    21. Alfani, Guido, 2020. "Epidemics, inequality and poverty in preindustrial and early industrial times," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 520, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Pandemics; Black Death; Mortality; Path Dependence; Cities; Urbanization; Malthusian Theory; Migration; Growth; Europe;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • 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

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