The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and its Lessons for COVID-19

August 2020

Brian Beach (Vanderbilt University and NBER), Karen Clay (Carnegie Mellon University and NBER), Martin Saavedra (Oberlin College)

IIEP working paper 2020-15

Abstract: *This paper is part of a Symposium organized by Dr. Remi Jedwab of the George Washington University that will appear in the Journal of Economic Literature.* This article reviews the global health and economic consequences of the 1918 infuenza pandemic, with a particular focus on topics that have seen a renewed interest because of COVID-19. We begin by providing an overview of key contextual and epidemiological details as well as the data that are available to researchers. We then examine the effects on mortality, fertility, and the economy in the short and medium run. The role of nonpharmaceutical interventions in shaping those outcomes is discussed throughout. We then examine longer-lasting health consequences and their impact on human capital accumulation and socioeconomic status. Throughout the paper we highlight important areas for future work.


JEL Codes: I10, N0, J10, J24

Key Words: Pandemics; 1918 Influenza; COVID-19; epidemics

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