Infant mortality decline in rural and urban Bavaria: fertility, economic transformation, infant care, and inequality in Bavaria and Munich, 1825–1910

John C. Brown, Timothy W. Guinnane
Published Online:
18 Sep 2017
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 71 Issue 3

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During most of the nineteenth century, Bavaria was notorious for infant mortality rates that were among the highest in Europe. After 1870, infant mortality in Bavaria began a sustained decline. This decline, which was impressive in urban areas, was even more dramatic in Bavaria's capital, Munich. From a peak of 40 deaths per 100 births in the 1860s, infant mortality had fallen two‐thirds by 1914. This article examines the causes of infant mortality in rural and urban districts of Bavaria from 1880 to 1910 and in Munich from 1825 up to shortly before the First World War. In rural Bavaria, structural change in agriculture lowered infant mortality, even as stark differences in infant survival driven by income gaps and deficient infant care remained. In urban areas, high fertility was strongly associated with high infant mortality. Individual‐level data from Munich reveal that infant care, fertility, and incomes mattered. Even prior to industrialization, occupational status influenced infant survival. Munich's growth into a leading industrial centre after 1875 apparently widened the gap between rich and poor. Families at the top of the occupational distribution and couples able to acquire real property saw the steepest declines in infant mortality. The poorest one‐third without property saw little improvement.

© Economic History Society 2017

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