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Disease and fertility: Evidence from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic in Sweden

What are the consequences of a severe health shock like an influenza pandemic on fertility? Using rich administrative data and a difference-in-differences approach, we evaluate fertility responses to the 1918-19 influenza pandemic in Sweden. We find evidence of a small baby boom following the end of the pandemic, but we show that this effect is second-order compared to a strong long-term negative fertility effect. Within this net fertility decline there are compositional effects: we observe a relative increase in births to married women and to better-off families. Several factors - including disruptions to the marriage market and income effects - contribute to the long-term fertility reduction. The results are consistent with studies that find a positive fertility response following natural disasters, but we show that this effect is short-lived.

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