Pollution, Infectious Disease, and Infant Mortality: Evidence from the 1918-1919 Spanish Influenza Pandemic

Edson Severnini, Carnegie Mellon University
Karen Clay, Carnegie Mellon University
Joshua Lewis, Université de Montréal

This paper uses newly digitized data from 559 U.S. cities over the period 1915-1925 to examine the effects of pollution, influenza, and pollution interacted with influenza on infant mortality. In time series regressions, the coefficient on the interaction of pollution and influenza on infant mortality is positive and statistically significant. We evaluate the impact of the pandemic on infant mortality in two counterfactual scenarios. First, consider a decline in average capacity within 30 miles of 100mw. This scenario would result in 600 infant lives saved, which is a 5.5 percent decline in pandemic related mortality. Second, consider a decline in all above median cities to median levels of capacity. This scenario would result in 1332 infant lives saved, which is a 12.2 percent decline in pandemic related mortality.

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 Presented in Session 180. Public Health and the Environment