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Persistent patterns of behavior: Two infectious disease outbreaks 350 years apart

Dasgupta, Utteeyo and Jha, Chandan Kumar and Sarangi, Sudipta (2020): Persistent patterns of behavior: Two infectious disease outbreaks 350 years apart. Forthcoming in: Economic Inquiry

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Abstract

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.

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