Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Mortality: Evidence from the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic
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.
You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.
This paper was revised on September 27, 2016
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21635