Did the 1918–19 Influenza Pandemic Kill the US Life Insurance Industry?
37 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 24, 2020
We document two puzzling facts during the 1918–19 influenza outbreak. First, we find no significant differences among US life insurers’ profitability before or after 1918. Second, there are fewer insurers in distress after the outbreak. We argue that an increase in insurance demand offset higher death claim payouts. Moreover, we find that life insurers from heavily affected states were more likely to issue equity. The prudential control of state regulators also mitigated financial difficulties. The influenza pandemic, while severe from a public health perspective, was arguably a blessing in disguise for the sector.
Keywords: Spanish Flu Pandemic, 1918–19 Influenza, Life insurance firms, COVID-19
JEL Classification: N11, N12, N21, N22, N81, N82, G22, G52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation