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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. Applied Economics Letters:1-6.

Abstract

Estimates of the effect of foetal health shocks may suffer from survivorship bias. The foetal origins literature seemingly agrees that survivorship bias is innocuous in the sense that it induces a bias towards 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 foetal health shocks.

Abstract

Estimates of the effect of foetal health shocks may suffer from survivorship bias. The foetal origins literature seemingly agrees that survivorship bias is innocuous in the sense that it induces a bias towards 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 foetal health shocks.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Evolutionary Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Economics and Econometrics
Language:English
Date:10 September 2021
Deposited On:15 Sep 2021 08:13
Last Modified:15 Sep 2021 08:13
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1350-4851
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/13504851.2021.1971614
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100018_156683
  • : Project TitleBirth weight of newborns as a mirror of women's standard of living: Evidence from birth records in the city of Basle 1888-1939

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