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Investigating survivorship bias: the case of the 1918 flu pandemic


Floris, Joël; Kaiser, Laurent; Mayr, Harald; Staub, Kaspar; Woitek, Ulrich (2021). Investigating survivorship bias: the case of the 1918 flu pandemic. Working paper series / Department of Economics 316, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Estimates of the effect of fetal health shocks may suffer from survivorship bias. The fetal origins literature seemingly agrees that survivorship bias is innocuous in the sense that it induces a bias toward zero. Arguably, however, selective mortality can imply a bias away from zero. In the case of the 1918 flu pandemic, a suppressed immune system may have been protective against the most severe consequences of infection. We use historical birth records from the maternity hospital of Bern, Switzerland, to evaluate this possibility. Our results suggest that a careful consideration of survivorship bias is imperative for the evaluation of the 1918 flu pandemic and other fetal health shocks.

Abstract

Estimates of the effect of fetal health shocks may suffer from survivorship bias. The fetal origins literature seemingly agrees that survivorship bias is innocuous in the sense that it induces a bias toward zero. Arguably, however, selective mortality can imply a bias away from zero. In the case of the 1918 flu pandemic, a suppressed immune system may have been protective against the most severe consequences of infection. We use historical birth records from the maternity hospital of Bern, Switzerland, to evaluate this possibility. Our results suggest that a careful consideration of survivorship bias is imperative for the evaluation of the 1918 flu pandemic and other fetal health shocks.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:I10, I15, I18, N34, J24
Uncontrolled Keywords:Fetal origins hypothesis, 1918 flu pandemic, culling, survivorship bias, Pandemie, Grippe, Pränatale Entwicklung, Langfristige Analyse, Sterblichkeit, Sozialstatus, Schweiz
Language:English
Date:March 2021
Deposited On:01 Feb 2019 09:34
Last Modified:18 Mar 2021 13:55
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:8
ISSN:1664-705X
Additional Information:Revised version ; Former title: Survival of the weakest? Culling evidence from the 1918 flu pandemic
OA Status:Green
Official URL:http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/workingpapers.php?id=995

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