IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/osf/socarx/36cqf.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Epidemics, Inequality and Poverty in Preindustrial and Early Industrial Times

Author

Listed:
  • , Stone Center

    (The Graduate Center/CUNY)

  • Alfani, Guido

Abstract

Recent research has explored the distributive consequences of major historical epidemics, and the current crisis triggered by Covid-19 prompts us to look at the past for insights about how pandemics can affect inequalities in income, wealth, and health. The fourteenth-century Black Death, which is usually believed to have led to a significant reduction in economic inequality, has attracted the greatest attention. However, the picture becomes much more complex if other epidemics are considered. This article covers the worst epidemics of preindustrial times, from Justinian’s Plague of 540-41 to the last great European plagues of the seventeenth century, as well as the cholera waves of the nineteenth. It shows how the distributive outcomes of lethal epidemics do not only depend upon mortality rates, but are mediated by a range of factors, chief among them the institutional framework in place at the onset of each crisis. It then explores how past epidemics affected poverty, arguing that highly lethal epidemics could reduce its prevalence through two deeply different mechanisms: redistribution towards the poor, or extermination of the poor. It concludes by recalling the historical connection between the progressive weakening and spacing in time of lethal epidemics and improvements in life expectancy, and by discussing how epidemics affected inequality in health and living standards. (Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality Working Paper Series)

Suggested Citation

  • , Stone Center & Alfani, Guido, 2020. "Epidemics, Inequality and Poverty in Preindustrial and Early Industrial Times," SocArXiv 36cqf, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:36cqf
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/36cqf
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://osf.io/download/5f7f4deccc246f01d074d528/
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.31219/osf.io/36cqf?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alfani, Guido & Murphy, Tommy E., 2017. "Plague and Lethal Epidemics in the Pre-Industrial World," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 314-343, March.
    2. Remi Jedwab & Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2019. "Negative shocks and mass persecutions: evidence from the Black Death," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 345-395, December.
    3. repec:hal:pseose:halshs-00944868 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Piketty, Thomas & Postel-Vinay, Gilles & Rosenthal, Jean-Laurent, 2014. "Inherited vs self-made wealth: Theory & evidence from a rentier society (Paris 1872–1927)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 21-40.
    5. Santiago-Caballero, Carlos, 2011. "Income inequality in central Spain, 1690-1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 83-96, January.
    6. Steckel, Richard H. & Moehling, Carolyn M., 2001. "Rising Inequality: Trends In The Distribution Of Wealth In Industrializing New England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 160-183, March.
    7. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2010. "The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(2), pages 163-188, Spring.
    8. Broadberry,Stephen & Campbell,Bruce M. S. & Klein,Alexander & Overton,Mark & van Leeuwen,Bas, 2015. "British Economic Growth, 1270–1870," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107070783, November.
    9. Guido Alfani, 2021. "Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Times: Europe and Beyond," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 3-44, March.
    10. David E. Bloom & Michael Kuhn & Klaus Prettner, 2022. "Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-131, March.
    11. Fochesato, Mattia, 2018. "Origins of Europe’s north-south divide: Population changes, real wages and the ‘little divergence’ in early modern Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 91-131.
    12. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1.
    13. Williamson, Jeffrey G, 1997. "Globalization and Inequality, Past and Present," The World Bank Research Observer, World Bank, vol. 12(2), pages 117-135, August.
    14. Nejat Anbarci & Monica Escaleras & Charles A. Register, 2012. "From Cholera Outbreaks to Pandemics: The Role of Poverty and Inequality," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 57(1), pages 21-31, May.
    15. Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
    16. Sergio Galletta & Tommaso Giommoni, 2022. "The Effect of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic on Income Inequality: Evidence from Italy," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 104(1), pages 187-203, March.
    17. Gregory CLARK, 2016. "Microbes and Markets: Was the Black Death an Economic Revolution?," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(2), pages 139-165, June.
    18. Szreter, S., 2002. "Rethinking McKeown: The relationship between public health and social change," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 92(5), pages 722-725.
    19. Carter, Michael R. & Little, Peter D. & Mogues, Tewodaj & Negatu, Workneh, 2007. "Poverty Traps and Natural Disasters in Ethiopia and Honduras," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 835-856, May.
    20. Samuel Cohn, 2007. "After the Black Death: labour legislation and attitudes towards labour in late‐medieval western Europe," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(3), pages 457-485, August.
    21. Fogel, Robert W, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 369-395, June.
    22. 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.
    23. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
    24. Robert J. Barro & José F. Ursúa & Joanna Weng, 2020. "The Coronavirus and the Great Influenza Pandemic: Lessons from the “Spanish Flu” for the Coronavirus’s Potential Effects on Mortality and Economic Activity," NBER Working Papers 26866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. Fogel,Robert William, 2004. "The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700–2100," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521004886, November.
    26. Prados De La Escosura, Leandro, 2008. "Inequality, poverty and the Kuznets curve in Spain, 1850–2000," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(3), pages 287-324, December.
    27. Alfani, Guido, 2020. "Pandemics and asymmetric shocks: evidence from the history of plague in Europe and the Mediterranean," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 478, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    28. Brian Pullan, 1964. "Wage-earners and the Venetian Economy, 1530–1630," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 16(3), pages 407-426, April.
    29. Wouter Ryckbosch, 2016. "Editor's choice Economic inequality and growth before the industrial revolution: the case of the Low Countries (fourteenth to nineteenth centuries)," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 20(1), pages 1-22.
    30. Alfani, Guido, 2015. "Economic Inequality in Northwestern Italy: A Long-Term View (Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries)," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1058-1096, December.
    31. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2017. "Long‐term trends in economic inequality: the case of the Florentine state, c. 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1072-1102, November.
    32. Francisco Azpitarte, 2012. "Measuring Poverty Using Both Income And Wealth: A Cross‐Country Comparison Between The U.S. And Spain," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 58(1), pages 24-50, March.
    33. Theresa Finley & Mark Koyama, 2018. "Plague, Politics, and Pogroms: The Black Death, the Rule of Law, and the Persecution of Jews in the Holy Roman Empire," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61(2), pages 253-277.
    34. Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    35. 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.
    36. Rota, Mauro & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2020. "Italy and the Little Divergence in Wages and Prices: New Data, New Results," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 931-960, December.
    37. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.
    38. Leandro Prados de la Escosura & Carlos Álvarez-Nogal & Carlos Santiago-Caballero, 2020. "Growth Recurring in Preindustrial Spain: Half a Millennium Perspective," Working Papers 0177, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    39. Robert J. Barro & José F. Ursua & Joanna Weng, 2020. "The Coronavirus and the Great Influenza Epidemic - Lessons from the "Spanish Flu" for the Coronavirus's Potential Effects on Mortality and Economic Activity," CESifo Working Paper Series 8166, CESifo.
    40. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.
    41. Guido Alfani, 2013. "Plague in seventeenth-century Europe and the decline of Italy: an epidemiological hypothesis," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 17(4), pages 408-430, November.
    42. Arroyo Abad, Leticia & Davies, Elwyn & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2012. "Between conquest and independence: Real wages and demographic change in Spanish America, 1530–1820," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 149-166.
    43. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    44. David Cutler & Grant Miller, 2005. "The role of public health improvements in health advances: The twentieth-century United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 42(1), pages 1-22, February.
    45. repec:aei:rpaper:1008560098 is not listed on IDEAS
    46. Claude Diebolt & Michael Haupert (ed.), 2019. "Handbook of Cliometrics," Springer Books, Springer, edition 2, number 978-3-030-00181-0, June.
    47. Matthew E. Kahn, 2005. "The Death Toll from Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 271-284, May.
    48. Anne Case & Angua Deaton, 2015. "Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century," Working Papers 15078.full.pdf, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    49. Alfani,Guido & Di Tullio,Matteo, 2019. "The Lion's Share," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781108476218, November.
    50. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati & Wouter Ryckbosch, 2022. "Poverty in early modern Europe: New approaches to old problems," Working Papers 0222, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    51. Attila Ambrus & Erica Field & Robert Gonzalez, 2020. "Loss in the Time of Cholera: Long-Run Impact of a Disease Epidemic on the Urban Landscape," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(2), pages 475-525, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Consequences

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Rachel Glennerster & Christopher M. Snyder & Brandon Joel Tan, 2023. "Calculating the Costs and Benefits of Advance Preparations for Future Pandemics," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 71(3), pages 611-648, September.
    2. Xiaowen Xie, 2023. "Analyzing the Impact of Digital Inclusive Finance on Poverty Reduction: A Study Based on System GMM in China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(18), pages 1-20, September.
    3. Brzezinski, Michal, 2021. "The impact of past pandemics on economic and gender inequalities," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 43(C).
    4. Madsen, Jakob B. & Robertson, Peter E. & Ye, Longfeng, 2024. "Lives versus livelihoods in the middle ages: The impact of the plague on trade over 400 years," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    5. Carl Bonham & Ruben Juarez & Nicole Siegal, 2023. "Long COVID and Unemployment in Hawaii," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 20(13), pages 1-12, June.
    6. Guido Alfani & Hector García Montero, 2022. "Wealth inequality in pre‐industrial England: A long‐term view (late thirteenth to sixteenth centuries)," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(4), pages 1314-1348, November.
    7. Wang, Jun & Ang, James B., 2024. "Epidemics, disease control, and China’s long-term development," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 93-112.
    8. Khan,Amjad Muhammad & Park,Hogeun & Roberts,Mark & Wibisana,Putu Sanjiwacika, 2022. "When the Lights Go Out : The Economic Impacts of Covid-19 on Cities Globally," Policy Research Working Paper Series 10189, The World Bank.
    9. Scott Alan Carson & Scott A. Carson, 2023. "Late 19th and Early 20th Century Urban Net Nutrition by Gender and Race," CESifo Working Paper Series 10703, CESifo.
    10. Alfani, Guido, 2023. "Inequality in History: A Long-Run View," SocArXiv 94dgs, Center for Open Science.
    11. Benjamin Schneider & Hillary Vipond, 2023. "The Past and Future of Work: How History Can Inform the Age of Automation," CESifo Working Paper Series 10766, CESifo.
    12. Schneider, Benjamin & Vipond, Hillary, 2023. "The past and future of work: how history can inform the age of automation," Economic History Working Papers 119282, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    13. Alarco, Germán, 2023. "Concentration of wealth and income in post-pandemic Latin-America: Measurement, results, and perspective," MPRA Paper 119516, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Brata, Aloysius Gunadi & Triandaru, Sigit & Patnasari, Yenny & Setyastuti, Rini & Sutarta, Agustinus Edi & Sukamto, Andreas, 2022. "The Spanish Flu Pandemic and Income Distribution in Java: Lessons from the 1920s," Jurnal Ekonomi Malaysia, Faculty of Economics and Business, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, vol. 56(3), pages 103-117.
    15. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rodríguez-Caballero, C. Vladimir, 2022. "War, pandemics, and modern economic growth in Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    16. Marcin Wroński, 2023. "Income distribution in Warsaw in the 1830s," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 27(4), pages 581-605.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Madsen, Jakob B. & Robertson, Peter E. & Ye, Longfeng, 2024. "Lives versus livelihoods in the middle ages: The impact of the plague on trade over 400 years," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    2. Remi Jedwab & Noel D. Johnson & Mark Koyama, 2022. "The Economic Impact of the Black Death," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 132-178, March.
    3. Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. Alfani, Guido & Gierok, Victoria & Schaff, Felix, 2022. "Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Germany, ca. 1300–1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 87-125, March.
    5. 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.
    6. Julio Martinez-Galarraga & Marc Prat, 2022. "Pre-industrial inequality in Catalonia," UB School of Economics Working Papers 2022/430, University of Barcelona School of Economics.
    7. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rodríguez-Caballero, C. Vladimir, 2022. "War, pandemics, and modern economic growth in Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 86(C).
    8. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro & Rodriguez-Caballero, Carlos Vladimir, 2020. "Growth, War, and Pandemics: Europe in the Very Long-run," CEPR Discussion Papers 14816, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Jedwab, Remi & Khan, Amjad M. & Russ, Jason & Zaveri, Esha D., 2021. "Epidemics, pandemics, and social conflict: Lessons from the past and possible scenarios for COVID-19," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
    10. 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.
    11. Jaime Reis, 2017. "Deviant behaviour? Inequality in Portugal 1565–1770," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 297-319, September.
    12. Remi Jedwab & Amjad M. Khan & Richard Damania & Jason Russ & Esha D. Zaveri, 2020. "Pandemics, Poverty, and Social Cohesion: Lessons from the Past and Possible Solutions for COVID-19," Working Papers 2020-13, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    13. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2017. "Long‐term trends in economic inequality: the case of the Florentine state, c. 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1072-1102, November.
    14. 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).
    15. Vincent Geloso & Peter Lindert, 2020. "Relative costs of living, for richer and poorer, 1688–1914," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 14(3), pages 417-442, September.
    16. Bloom, David E. & Canning, David & Kotschy, Rainer & Prettner, Klaus & Schünemann, Johannes, 2024. "Health and economic growth: Reconciling the micro and macro evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 178(C).
    17. David E. Bloom & Michael Kuhn & Klaus Prettner, 2022. "Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-131, March.
    18. Espín-Sánchez, José-Antonio & Gil-Guirado, Salvador & Giraldo-Paez, W. Daniel & Vickers, Chris, 2019. "Labor income inequality in pre-industrial Mediterranean Spain: The city of Murcia in the 18th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    19. Guido Alfani & Wouter Ryckbosch, 2015. "Was there a ‘Little Convergence’ in inequality? Italy and the Low Countries compared, ca. 1500-1800," Working Papers 557, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    20. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I14 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Inequality
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:36cqf. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: OSF (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://arabixiv.org .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.