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The Longevity of Famous People from Hammurabi to Einstein

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  • David de la Croix
  • Omar Licandro

Abstract

We build a unique dataset of 300,000 famous people born between Hammurabi's epoch and 1879, Einstein's birth year. It includes, among other variables, the vital dates, occupations, and locations of celebrities from the Index Bio-bibliographicus Notorum Hominum (IBN), a very comprehensive biographical tool. Our main contribution is fourfold. First, we show, using for the first time a worldwide, long-running, consistent database, that mortality displays no trend during the Malthusian era. Second, after correcting for selection and composition biases, we date the beginning of the steadily improvements in longevity to the cohort born in 1640-9, clearly preceding the Industrial Revolution. Third, we find that this timing of longevity improvements concerns most countries in Europe, as well as all types of skilled occupations. Finally, the reasons for this early rise in mean lifetime have to be found in age-dependent shifts in the survival law.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 666.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:666

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Keywords: Longevity; Notoriety; Malthus; Gompertz-Makeham; Compensation Effect of Mortality;

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  1. David de la Croix & Omar Licandro, 2007. "‘The Child is Father of the Man:’ Implications for the Demographic Transition," Economics Working Papers, European University Institute ECO2007/05, European University Institute.
  2. Fogel, Robert W., 1993. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," Nobel Prize in Economics documents, Nobel Prize Committee 1993-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
  3. BOUCEKKINE, Raouf & de la CROIX, David & LICANDRO, Omar, 2002. "Early mortality declines at the dawn of modern growth," CORE Discussion Papers, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) 2002030, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Oksana Leukhina & Michael Bar, 2010. "The Role of Mortality in the Transmission of Knowledge," 2010 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 1256, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. DE LA CROIX, David & LINDH, Thomas & MALMBERG, Bo, . "Swedish economic growth and education since 1800," CORE Discussion Papers RP, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) -2063, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  6. Cervellati, Matteo & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Human Capital, Mortality and Fertility: A Unified Theory of the Economic and Demographic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 6384, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Nancy Qian & Nathan Nunn, 2010. "The Potato’s Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment," Working Papers id:2792, eSocialSciences.
  8. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 580-601, June.
  9. Boucekkine, Raouf & de la Croix, David & Licandro, Omar, 2000. "Vintage Human Capital, Demographic Trends and Endogenous Growth," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales), Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) 2000007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  10. John Wilmoth & Shiro Horiuchi, 1999. "Rectangularization revisited: Variability of age at death within human populations," Demography, Springer, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 475-495, November.
  11. Hoffman, Philip T. & Jacks, David S. & Levin, Patricia A. & Lindert, Peter H., 2002. "Real Inequality In Europe Since 1500," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 322-355, June.
  12. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press, Princeton University Press.
  13. Holger Strulik & Sebastian Vollmer, 2013. "Long-run trends of human aging and longevity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 1303-1323, October.
  14. Tine De Moor & Jaco Zuijderduijn, 2011. "The Art of Counting - Reconstructing numeracy in the middle and upper classes on the basis of portraits in the early modern Low Countries," Working Papers, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History 0016, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Longevity increased much before the Industrial Revolution
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-12-05 14:36:00
  2. Monday miscellany
    by Brett in Brett Keller on 2012-12-10 06:48:34
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Cited by:
  1. Mara P. Squicciarini & Nico Voigtländer, 2014. "Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment," NBER Working Papers 20219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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