VID Colloquium

¿Lo que no mata, engorda? The Impact of the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic on Economic Performance in Sweden

Martin Karlsson, TU Darmstadt, Germany

Date: Tue, 29 November 2011 , Time: 10:00 - 11:00

We study the impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic on economic performance in Sweden. The pandemic was one of the severest and deadliest pandemics in human history, but it has hitherto received only scant attention in the literature -- despite important implications for modern-day pandemics. In this paper, we exploit seemingly exogenous variation in incidence rates between Swedish regions to estimate the impact of the pandemic. Using difference-in-differences and high-quality administrative data from Sweden, we estimate the eff ects on earnings, capital returns, poverty and manufacturing production. We find that the pandemic lead to a signi ficant increase in poverty rates. There is also relatively strong evidence that capital returns were negatively affected by the pandemic. On the other hand, we fi nd robust evidence that the influenza had no discernible effect on earnings. This fi nding is surprising since it goes against most previous empirical studies as well as theoretical predictions.


About the presenter

Martin Karlsson joined the TU Darmstadt in April 2009. He was awarded a PhD in economics from the European University Institute in 2007, for a thesis on incentive regulation in health care. During his doctoral studies, Martin was also working as a research officer at Cass Business School in London. Between 2006 and 2009 he worked as a research fellow at the University of Oxford (Institute of Ageing and Nuffield College). Martin's research interests span a wide range of topics within the domain of health economics, such as the effect of economic inequality on individual health; information asymmetries in markets for health insurance; and the effects of sick pay on labour supply. He has published in leading journals such as the Journal of Health Economics, The Economic Journal, and the Journal of Public Economics. Beside his work at the TU Darmstadt, Martin is a research fellow of the University of Oslo, and he furthermore participates in several collaborations with colleagues in other European countries.

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