Report

Pandemics Change Cities: Municipal Spending and Voter Extremism in Germany, 1918-1933


Abstract: We merge several historical data sets from Germany to show that influenza mortality in 1918-1920 is correlated with societal changes, as measured by municipal spending and city-level extremist voting, in the subsequent decade. First, influenza deaths are associated with lower per capita spending, especially on services consumed by the young. Second, influenza deaths are correlated with the share of votes received by extremist parties in 1932 and 1933. Our election results are robust to controlling for city spending, demographics, war-related population changes, city-level wages, and regional unemployment, and to instrumenting influenza mortality. We conjecture that our findings may be the consequence of long-term societal changes brought about by a pandemic.

Keywords: municipal spending; influenza; COVID-19; pandemic; voter extremism;

JEL Classification: H4; I15; N14; H3;

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Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Staff Reports

Publication Date: 2020-05-01

Number: 921