NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Mortality: Evidence from the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic

Karen Clay, Joshua Lewis, Edson Severnini

NBER Working Paper No. 21635
Issued in October 2015
NBER Program(s):   DAE   EEE

This paper uses the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic as a quasi-natural experiment to examine whether air pollution affects susceptibility to infectious disease. The analysis combines the sharp timing of the pandemic with large cross-city differences in baseline pollution measures based on coal-fired electricity generating capacity. The findings suggest that air pollution had a quantitatively important impact on pandemic severity. Had pollution in coal-intensive cities been reduced to the median level, pandemic-related mortality would have been 10 to 14 percent lower, and pandemic-related infant mortality would have been 25 to 40 percent lower. These results have implications for pandemic preparedness and the allocation of scarce resources during an outbreak.

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This paper was revised on September 27, 2016

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21635

 
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