Enrico Berkes, Olivier Deschenes, Ruben Gaetani, Jeffrey Lin, Christopher Severen: Lockdowns and Innovation: Evidence from the 1918 Flu Pandemic, in: NBER Working Paper Series, Working Paper 28152 (November 2020), DOI: 10.3386/w28152.
In their article, the authors address the question of whether social distancing harms innovation. They provide an assessment of the effect of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on local inventions. By NPIs, they mean policies that restrict interactions to slow the spread of disease. The authors constructed a panel that included issued patents and NPIs adopted by 50 major U.S. cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Estimates made using the difference-in-differences approach show that cities that adopted longer NPIs did not experience a decline in patenting during the pandemic compared with cities with short NPIs. After the pandemic, cities that adopted longer NPIs experienced higher patenting. Rather than reduce local invention by restricting localized knowledge spillovers, NPIs adopted during the pandemic may have better preserved other inventive factors.