Discussion paper

DP15783 Unequal Mortality during the Spanish Flu

The outburst of deaths and cases of Covid-19 around the world has renewed the interest to understand the mortality effects of pandemics across regions, occupations, age and gender. The Spanish Flu is the closest pandemic to Covid-19. Mortality rates in Spain were among the largest in today’s developed countries. Our research documents a substantial heterogeneity on mortality rates across occupations. The highest mortality was on low-income workers. We also record a rural mortality penalty that reversed the historical urban penalty temporally. The higher capacity of certain social groups to isolate themselves from social contact could explain these mortality differentials. However, adjusting mortality evidence by these two factors, there were still large mortality inter-provincial differences for the same occupation and location, suggesting the existence of a regional component in rates of flu contagion possibly related to climatic differences.


Basco, S, J Domenech and J Rosés (2021), ‘DP15783 Unequal Mortality during the Spanish Flu‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15783. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15783