Remi Jedwab, Noel D. Johnson, Mark Koyama: The Economic Impact of the Black Death, in: IIEP-WP-2020-14, August 2020.
The “Black Death” was the biggest demographic shock in European history. The authors of this paper review the origin, spread and mortality of the disease. They document that it was an plausibly exogenous shock for the European economy and trace its aggregate and local impacts in both the short and long term.
The initial impact of the disease was extremely drastic. Wages and per capita income increased. In the long term, however, this increase was only sustainable in some parts of Europe. The other indirect long-term effects of the “Black Death” are related to the growth of Europe compared to the rest of the world, particularly Asia and the Middle East (the Great Divergence), a shift in the economic geography of Europe towards the Northwest (the Little Divergence), the decline of serfdom in Western Europe, a decline in the authority of religious institutions and the emergence of stronger states. Finally, ways for future research are pointed out.