The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and its Lessons for COVID-19
This article reviews the global health and economic consequences of the 1918 influenza pandemic, with a particular focus on topics that have seen a renewed interest because of COVID-19. We begin by providing an overview of key contextual and epidemiological details as well as the data that are available to researchers. We then examine the effects on mortality, fertility, and the economy in the short and medium run. The role of nonpharmaceutical interventions in shaping those outcomes is discussed throughout. We then examine longer-lasting health consequences and their impact on human capital accumulation and socioeconomic status. Throughout the paper we highlight important areas for future work.
We thank Guido Alfani, Doug Almond, Vellore Arthi, David Bloom, Bill Collins, Sergio Correia, James Feigenbaum, Walker Hanlon, Eric Hilt, Carl Kitchens, Noel Johnson, Michael Kuhn, Josh Lewis, Stephan Luck, Analisa Packham, Klaus Prettner, Sarah Quincy, Claire Saavedra, Ellis Tallman, François Velde, and Emil Verner for their helpful comments. The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University, Oberlin College, and Vanderbilt University. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.