Quotation Boberg-Fazlic, Nina, Lampe, Markus, Pedersen, Maja Uhre, Sharp, Paul. 2021. Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the “Spanish” flu. Palgrave Communications. 8 (145), 1-9.




The impact of COVID-19 on recent tendencies towards international isolationism has been much speculated on but remains to be seen. We suggest that valuable evidence can be gleaned from the “Spanish” flu of 1918–20. It is well-known that the world fell into a protectionist spiral following the First World War, but scholars have almost exclusively ignored the impact of the pandemic. We employ a difference-in-differences strategy and find that the flu had a significant impact on trade policy, independent of the war. In our preferred specification, a one standard deviation increase in excess deaths during the outbreak implied 0.022 percentage points higher tariffs subsequently, corresponding to an increase of one third of a standard deviation in tariffs. Health policy should aim to avoid the experience of the interwar period and consider the international macroeconomic impact of measures (not) taken.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Palgrave Communications
Language English
Title Pandemics and protectionism: evidence from the “Spanish” flu
Volume 8
Number 145
Year 2021
Page from 1
Page to 9
Reviewed? Y
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-021-00833-7
DOI https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00833-7
Open Access Y
Open Access Link https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-021-00833-7
JEL F13, I19, N74


Lampe, Markus (Details)
Boberg-Fazlic, Nina (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
Pedersen, Maja Uhre (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
Sharp, Paul (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
Institute for Economic and Social History IN (Details)
Research Institute for Spatial and Real Estate Economics FI (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
5300 Economics (Details)
5340 Economic history (Details)
6521 Economic history (Details)
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