Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic

37 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2020 Last revised: 5 Dec 2020

See all articles by Enrico Berkes

Enrico Berkes

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Economics

Olivier Deschenes

University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Ruben Gaetani

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Jeffrey Lin

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Christopher Severen

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Date Written: November 2020

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.

Suggested Citation

Berkes, Enrico and Deschenes, Olivier and Gaetani, Ruben and Lin, Jeffrey and Severen, Christopher, Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic (November 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w28152, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3739649

Enrico Berkes (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Economics ( email )

United States

Olivier Deschenes

University of California, Santa Barbara - College of Letters & Science - Department of Economics ( email )

UC Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Ruben Gaetani

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

Jeffrey Lin

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

Christopher Severen

Federal Reserve Banks - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States

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