Social Inequality in Cause-Specific Infant Mortality at the Dawn of the Demographic Transition: New Insights from German Church Records

Michael Muehlichen , Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Gabriele Doblhammer, University of Rostock

Little is known about social gradients in cause-specific infant mortality in the nineteenth century. To our knowledge, this is the first paper to explore this connection for the time prior to the demographic transition. We used the church records of Rostock, an important port city on the Baltic coast in northern Germany, and prepared and merged the baptismal and burial registers of its largest parish, St. James, for the periods 1815–36 and 1859–82. Based on individual-level data (N=16,880), we classified the fathers’ occupations into three social classes and estimated cause-specific infant mortality risks for these groups using event history analysis. We found an almost linear social gradient in neonatal and post-neonatal mortality. This gradient was driven by gastro-intestinal diseases, which suggests severe deficits in nutrition and sanitation among the lower social classes, even before industrialization (coupled with population growth) led to worsening living environments.

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 Presented in Session 24. Health and Well-being of the Youngest: Infant and Child Mortality