Infant and child mortality by socio‐economic status in early nineteenth‐century England †

Hannaliis Jaadla, Ellen Potter, Sebastian Keibek, Romola Davenport
Published Online:
16 Jun 2020
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Abstract Historical relationships between socio‐economic status and mortality remain poorly understood. This is particularly the case in England, due to a lack of status indicators in available sources especially before c. 1850. This study uses the paternal occupational descriptors routinely recorded in Anglican baptism registers from 1813–37 to compare infant and early childhood mortality by social status. The sample consists of eight of the Cambridge Group family reconstitution parishes, which make it possible to investigate the contributions of environment as well as household characteristics. The main variable of interest was an individual‐level continuous measure of wealth based on ranking paternal occupations by the propensity for their movable wealth to be inventoried upon death. The findings show that wealth conferred no clear survival advantage in infancy, once differences in average mortality levels between parishes were adjusted for. However, wealth was associated with higher survival rates in early childhood, especially in the second year of life, and this pattern persisted after adjustment for parish‐level effects. The striking exception to this pattern was labourers, who were among the poorest of fathers but whose children enjoyed relatively low mortality. Thus socio‐economic differentials in mortality were present in early nineteenth‐century England; however, they were small, age‐specific, and non‐linear.

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