Investigating survivorship bias: The case of the 1918 flu pandemic

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 316, Revised version

10 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2019 Last revised: 18 Mar 2021

See all articles by Joël Floris

Joël Floris

University of Zurich

Laurent Kaiser

Geneva University Hospitals - Division of Infectious Diseases

Harald Mayr

ETH Zurich

Kaspar Staub

University of Zurich

Ulrich Woitek

University of Zurich

Date Written: March 05, 2021

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.

Keywords: Fetal origins, 1918 flu pandemic, survivorship bias

JEL Classification: I10, I15, I18, N34, J24

Suggested Citation

Floris, Joël and Kaiser, Laurent and Mayr, Harald and Staub, Kaspar and Woitek, Ulrich, Investigating survivorship bias: The case of the 1918 flu pandemic (March 05, 2021). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 316, Revised version, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3326517 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3326517

Joël Floris (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Laurent Kaiser

Geneva University Hospitals - Division of Infectious Diseases ( email )

Geneva, Shandong
Switzerland

Harald Mayr

ETH Zurich ( email )

LEE G104
Leonhardstrasse 21
Zurich
Switzerland

Kaspar Staub

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

Ulrich Woitek

University of Zurich ( email )

Zürichbergstrasse 14
CH-8032 Zurich
Switzerland

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