Jörg Baten

Jörg Baten

PANDEMICS, POPULATION DECLINE AND HUMAN WELFARE: A MULTIDIMENSIONAL APPROACH
Jörg Baten


Barbiera and dalla Zuana (2009) argued that the period of the Justinian plague and the following plague waves resulted in a heterogeneous welfare development in Italy: the nutritional situation was relatively favorable, but mortality was particularly high among the young (age 5-20) population, among other issues. In this overview, we support this argument for the whole European continent. We expand the multidimensional nature of the standard of living by including measures of violence of the whole population, violence among the elites, and education of the elite. For the whole continent, we confirm the paradoxical result that after the catastrophe of the Justinian plague (and the following plague waves) the whole continent showed more favorable nutrition values, as indicated by enamel hypoplasia and height-based indicators (Baten et al. 2019; Steckel et al. 2019). After the population began to increase again at the end of the early medieval phase, nutritional indicators worsened for a long time – even until the 19 th century, with some cycles in between. However, the trends of elite violence, elite education (especially numeracy), and overall violence moved in the opposite direction. The worst values could be observed before the early modern period, and all three violence and education indicators improved thereafter – but their development was characterized by many interesting regional deviations. We argue that — as the human standard of living is inherently multidimensional — a number of different dimensions are playing a role; hence it is necessary to calculate a version of the “human development index” that includes nutrition, health, education, and personal security for the medieval period in order to assess the effect of pandemic events and population decline on human welfare, taking into account the paradoxes of development of individual components.