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Vol. 90, No. 2 (Posted 2008-03-03)

Pandemic Economics: The 1918 Influenza and Its Modern-Day Implications

by Thomas A. Garrett

Many predictions of the economic and social costs of a modern-day pandemic are based on the effects of the influenza pandemic of 1918. Despite killing 675,000 people in the United States and 40 million worldwide, the influenza of 1918 has been nearly forgotten. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the influenza pandemic of 1918 in the United States, its economic effects, and its implications for a modern-day pandemic. The paper provides a brief historical background as well as detailed influenza mortality statistics for cities and states, including those in the Eighth Federal Reserve District, that account for differences in race, income, and place of residence. Information is obtained from two sources: (i) newspaper articles published during the pandemic and (ii) a survey of economic research on the subject.

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