The Long Sweep of History
This is a pretty straightforward week, and if we didn’t actually have a pandemic right now, this might reasonably fit neatly into an introductory week to a pandemics course.
Professor Frank Snowden seems to be pretty well known for the open access course he offers from Yale that he hasparlayed into what is essentially a (pretty good) textbook. The chapter and the video are pretty close substitutes. The chapter from Damir Huremović is a brief, readable introduction to the long line of infectious diseases, including SARS, HIV/AIDS, and Ebola. The Bell and Lewis paper from World Economics nicely complements these works. You should find the first few pages interesting, and then you can skim to taste. For your homework this week, you will need to keep track of the claims Bell & Lewis make on pp. 10-21.
Perhaps not surprisingly, epidemics and pandemics often have highly unequal effects, and I have included a piece from this week’s Wall Street Journal that discusses CoVID-19s highly unequal effects on African Americans.
We will also take a look at the longer-run impacts of epidemics on the natural rate of interest. Jordà, Singh, and Taylor provide some interesting time-series results that demonstrate that effects of epidemics can persist for 20+ years and that the sign of the effect goes in the exact opposite direction of warfare!
There is some excellent intuition to be had here, and the 495 students will get a chance to match theory and evidence!
- Frank M. Snowden, “Introduction,” Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to Present, Yale University Press, 2019. (video alternative here)
- Damir Huremović “Brief History of Pandemics (Pandemics Throughout History),” Chapter 2 of Psychiatry of Pandemics: A Mental Health Response to Infection Outbreak, Springer. 2019.
- Clive Bell and Maureen Lewis. “The Economic Implications of Epidemics Old and New.” World Economics. 2004.
- Lauren Weber, “A Top Immunologist on Why Coronavirus Is Killing More African-Americans,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2020
- Òscar Jordà, Sanjay R. Singh, and Alan M. Taylor, “Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics,” NBER Working Paper 26934, April 2020
What is the natural rate of interest again? (pick one, find your own, or ask Prof Fitz!):
- Michael Ng and David Wessel, “The Hutchins Center Explains: The Neutral Rate of Interest,” Brookings Institute blog, October 22, 2018
- “A natural long-term rate,” The Economist, October 26, 2013