Persistent Patterns of Behavior: Two Infectious Disease Outbreaks 350 Years Apart

Economic Inquiry 2020, DOI: DOI:10.1111/ecin.12961

19 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2020

See all articles by Utteeyo Dasgupta

Utteeyo Dasgupta

Fordham University; IZA; Global Labor Organization (GLO)

Chandan Kumar Jha

Le Moyne College

Sudipta Sarangi

Virginia Tech

Date Written: July 2020


Outbreaks of infectious diseases bring behavior and policy responses into sharp focus since societies face acute constraints and uncertainties. This paper compares two infectious disease outbreaks: the COVID-19 pandemic and the 1665 London plague outbreak described by Daniel Defoe in A Journal of the Year of the Plague published in 1722. We compare three aspects: individual behavior, social behavior and governance and find striking similarities in behavior in spite of these events being separated by 350 years. We contend that the same models of behavior can be used to explain human responses during such outbreaks regardless of when they occur.

Keywords: pandemics, infectious diseases, economic behavior, comparative analysis

JEL Classification: A10, B52, Z11

Suggested Citation

Dasgupta, Utteeyo and Jha, Chandan Kumar and Sarangi, Sudipta, Persistent Patterns of Behavior: Two Infectious Disease Outbreaks 350 Years Apart (July 2020). Economic Inquiry 2020, DOI: DOI:10.1111/ecin.12961 , Available at SSRN: or

Utteeyo Dasgupta

Fordham University ( email )

113 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
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Global Labor Organization (GLO) ( email )


Chandan Kumar Jha (Contact Author)

Le Moyne College ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13214
United States

Sudipta Sarangi

Virginia Tech ( email )

250 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
United States

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