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Public Health Interventions and Economic Growth

Revisiting the 1918 Flu Evidence



Using data from 43 US cities, Correia, Luck, and Verner (2020) finds that the 1918 Flu pandemic decreased economic growth, but that Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) mitigated its adverse economic effects. Their starting point is a striking positive correlation between 1914-1919 economic growth and the extent of NPIs adopted at the city level. We show that those results are driven by population growth between 1910 to 1917, before the pandemic. We also extend their difference in differences analysis to earlier periods, and find that once we account for pre-existing differential trends, the estimated effect of NPIs on economic growth are a noisy zero; we can neither rule out substantial positive nor negative effects of NPIs on employment growth.

Paper (May 5)

Data appendix


Original Paper by Correia, Luck and Verner (March 26)

Updated Paper by Correia, Luck and Verner (April 12)


Response by Correia, Luck and Verner (May 15)

Reply by Lilley, Lilley and Rinaldi (May 19)

Amended paper by Correia, Luck and Verner (Jun 11)

Replication Package

Code and data