Working Paper BETA #2023-01

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Author(s) : Guillaume Morel, Magali Jaoul-Grammare

Abstract : The objective of this article is to study the impact of major pandemics on GDP/capita, wages and prices. The originality of our work lies in a cliometric approach relying on a database spanning multiple centuries (1280-2018), using various series from De Granges et al. (1855), D’Avenel (1894), Baulant (1971), INSEE (1988) and Maddison (2020). In order to analyse the impact of major pandemics on the economy, we use the outlier methodology (Darné and Diebolt, 2004). This method consists in detecting atypical points affecting the evolution of a time series. It relies on real shocks and not on simulated ones; it is therefore more suitable for historical analysis. We detect events which significantly affected the evolution of the economy during a determined period. The following question is tackled: over the period 1280-2018, did pandemics significantly influence the evolution of GDP/capita, wages and prices (wheat) and if so, what has been the nature of this impact? Having outlined the history of pandemics and reviewed the literature linking our variables to health shocks, we present our results and observe a differentiated impact of pandemics between variables. First, only GDP/capita is significantly affected by health shocks. Second, wages and prices seem to be unaffected by pandemics; variations appear to be directly linked to institutional events like the introduction of taxes, the presence of guilds, and changes in worker statuses (Jedwab et al. (2020)), and to structural events as food shortages and crop failures (Boyer et al. (2019)).

Key-words : Cliometrics, GDP, Infectious diseases, Outliers, Prices, Wages

JEL Classification : C32. E32. N33.