Temperature, Disease, and Death in London: Analyzing Weekly Data for the Century from 1866-1965
Using weekly mortality data for London spanning 1866-1965, we analyze the changing relationship between temperature and mortality as the city developed. Our results show that both warm and cold weeks were associated with elevated mortality in the late 19th-century, but heat effects, due mainly to infant deaths from digestive diseases, largely disappeared after WWI. The resulting change in the temperature-mortality relationship meant that thousands of heat-related deaths–equal to 0.8-1.3 percent of all deaths–were averted. Our findings also indicate that a series of hot years in the 1890s substantially changed the timing of the infant mortality decline in London.
We thank Vellore Arthi, Brian Beach, Alan Barreca, Robert Margo, Andrew Oswald, and seminar participants at the European Economic Association Meeting, the Copenhagen Business School Inequality Platform's First Workshop on Climate Change and Inequality, and the 5th Annual Meeting of the Danish Society for Economic and Social History for their helpful comments. Funding for this project was provided by National Science Foundation CAREER Grant No. 1552692. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.