DFG Grant: School Closures and NPIs during the Great Influenza Pandemic in Sweden

Martin Karlsson has been awarded a DFG grant of EUR 270,459 for a research project on NPIs during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. The overall aim of the project is to increase our knowledge on the consequences for health and human capital of school closures and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) during a pandemic, with an application to Sweden during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. Within the project, we will construct an exceptionally rich historical database, which includes a) extremely detailed and accurate individual-level information (demographics, socioeconomic background, place of residence/schooling, labour market outcomes, etc), and b) detailed high-quality aggregate data regarding the timing and intensity of the pandemic, measures taken to contain it, and a large number of background variables. The database will include the entire Swedish population at the time (5.4M) and all 2,500 local authorities. Using this outstanding database, research in the project will address three broad research questions: 1) Did the NPIs, in particular school closures, have the intended effect on the spread of the pandemic? Under what circumstances and in what subpopulations where the measures particularly effective? (2) What were the long-run consequences for the school children affected by the closures – in terms of educational attainment, labour market outcomes and other indicators of socioeconomic status? (3) How does the local distribution of political power affect the propensity to enact NPIs? Is it easier to implement harsh measures if political power is concentrated in the hand of a few, and are there signs that there is a conflict of interest between the elites in society and the broad masses?