The Impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic on Economic Performance in Sweden

Reprint No. 2014:35

Author(s): Martin Karlsson, Therese Nilsson and Stefan PichlerYear: 2014 Title: Journal of Health Economics Volume (No.): 36 (July) Pages: 1–9
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We study the impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic on short- and medium-term economic performancein Sweden. The pandemic was one of the severest and deadliest pandemics in human history, but it hashitherto received only scant attention in the economic literature – despite representing an unparalleledlabour supply shock. In this paper, we exploit seemingly exogenous variation in incidence rates betweenSwedish regions to estimate the impact of the pandemic. The pandemic led to a significant increase inpoorhouse rates. There is also evidence that capital returns were negatively affected by the pandemic.However, contrary to predictions, we find no discernible effect on earnings.

Karlsson, Martin, Therese Nilsson and Stefan Pichler (2014), "The Impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic on Economic Performance in Sweden". Journal of Health Economics 36(July), 1–9.

Therese Nilsson


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