Correlates and Consequences of the 1918 Influenza in South Africa

We study the demographic and economic correlates of the 1918 influenza or “Spanish flu” that killed an estimated 6% of South Africa’s population. While the pandemic has received some attention in South African historiography and from social scientists in other contexts, little is known about its long-term impact on the country. Bringing together data from a range of new sources, including population and agricultural censuses, household surveys, and the voters’ rolls, we provide analyses that show, first, the factors that (do and do not) predict flu mortality across South Africa’s magisterial districts, and, second, suggest some important consequences of the flu. Our results reveal a large but short-lived demographic shock, and detectable, if small scale, long-term economic consequences.

Daniel de Kadt, Johan Fourie, Jan Greyling, Elie Murard, Johannes Norling

South African Journal of Economics

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