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Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Enrico Berkes (), Olivier Deschenes, Ruben Gaetani, Jeffrey Lin and Christopher Severen

No 20-46, Working Papers from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Abstract: Does social distancing harm innovation? We estimate the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)—policies that restrict interactions in an attempt to slow the spread of disease—on local invention. We construct a panel of issued patents and NPIs adopted by 50 large US cities during the 1918 flu pandemic. Difference-in-differences estimates show that cities adopting longer NPIs did not experience a decline in patenting during the pandemic relative to short-NPI cities, and recorded higher patenting afterward. Rather than reduce local invention by restricting localized knowledge spillovers, NPIs adopted during the pandemic may have better preserved other inventive factors.

Keywords: Non-pharmaceutical interventions; public health; invention; patents; influenza (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N92 O31 R11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 37
Date: 2020-12-03
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DOI: 10.21799/frbp.wp.2020.46

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