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Death, demography and the denominator: New Influenza-18 mortality estimates for Ireland

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  • Colvin, Christopher L.
  • McLaughlin, Eoin

Abstract

Using the Irish experience of the Spanish flu, we demonstrate that pandemic mortality statistics are sensitive to the demographic composition of a country. We build a new demographic database for Ireland's 32 counties with vital statistics on births, ageing, migration and deaths. We then show how age-at-death statistics in 1918 and 1919 should be reinterpreted in light of these data. Our new estimates suggest the very young were most impacted by the flu. New studies of the economic impact of Influenza-18 must better control for demographic factors if they are to yield useful policy-relevant results. Covid-19 mortality statistics must go through a similar procedure so policymakers can better target their public health interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2020. "Death, demography and the denominator: New Influenza-18 mortality estimates for Ireland," SRERC Working Paper Series SRERCWP2020-2, University College Cork (UCC), Spatial and Regional Economic Research Centre (SRERC).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:srercw:srercwp20202
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Siddharth Chandra & Goran Kuljanin & Jennifer Wray, 2012. "Mortality From the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919: The Case of India," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(3), pages 857-865, August.
    2. Clay, Karen & Lewis, Joshua & Severnini, Edson, 2018. "Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Mortality: Evidence from the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(4), pages 1179-1209, December.
    3. Matthias Blum & Christopher L. Colvin & Laura McAtackney & Eoin McLaughlin, 2017. "Women of an uncertain age: quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 187-223, February.
    4. de Bromhead, Alan & Fernihough, Alan & Hargaden, Enda, 2020. "Representation of the People: Franchise Extension and the “Sinn Féin Election” in Ireland, 1918," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 80(3), pages 886-925, September.
    5. Peter Zhixian Lin & Christopher M. Meissner, 2020. "A Note on Long-Run Persistence of Public Health Outcomes in Pandemics," NBER Working Papers 27119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Colvin, Christopher L. & Winfree, Paul, 2019. "Applied history, applied economics, and economic history," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2019-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    7. Andrew Noymer & Michel Garenne, 2000. "The 1918 Influenza Epidemic's Effects on Sex Differentials in Mortality in the United States," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(3), pages 565-581, September.
    8. Brainerd, Elizabeth & Siegler, Mark V, 2003. "The Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 3791, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Carillo, Mario & Jappelli, Tullio, 2020. "Pandemics and Local Economic Growth: Evidence from the Great Influenza in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 14849, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Eichengreen, Barry, 2012. "Economic History and Economic Policy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 289-307, May.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    demographic economics; pandemics; age-adjusted mortality; Spanish flu; Ireland;

    JEL classification:

    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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