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Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic

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  • Enrico Berkes
  • Olivier Deschenes
  • Ruben Gaetani
  • Jeffrey Lin
  • Christopher Severen

Abstract

Does social distancing harm innovation? We estimate the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)—policies that restrict interactions in an attempt to slow the spread of disease—on local invention. We construct a panel of issued patents and NPIs adopted by 50 large US cities during the 1918 flu pandemic. Difference-in-differences estimates show that cities adopting longer NPIs did not experience a decline in patenting during the pandemic relative to short-NPI cities, and recorded higher patenting afterward. Rather than reduce local invention by restricting localized knowledge spillovers, NPIs adopted during the pandemic may have better preserved other inventive factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Enrico Berkes & Olivier Deschenes & Ruben Gaetani & Jeffrey Lin & Christopher Severen, 2020. "Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 28152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:28152
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    Cited by:

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    3. Hiroyasu Inoue & Kentaro Nakajima & Tetsuji Okazaki & Yukiko U. Saito, 2022. "Controlling Funds Allocation for the War: The Experience of Japan in the Late 1930s," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-1192, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    4. Hiroyasu Inoue & Kentaro Nakajima & Tetsuji Okazaki & Yukiko U. Saito, 2022. "The Role of Face-to-face Contact on Innovation: Evidence from the Spanish Flu Pandemic in Japan," CIGS Working Paper Series 22-007E, The Canon Institute for Global Studies.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes

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