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Early life socioeconomic conditions in rural areas and old-age mortality in twentieth-century Quebec


  • Gagnon, Alain
  • Bohnert, Nora


This study examines the effects of early life socioeconomic and residential conditions on adult mortality. The family and residential details of children living in rural areas of Quebec, Canada, in 1901 were linked to their subsequent ages at death using a database compiling information from the 1901 Canadian Census and Quebec vital statistics registers. Survival analysis results suggest that males raised on a farm and in a household owned by their father had lower mortality after the age of fifty than other males from rural areas. Chances for survival at older ages were not equal, however, among males whose father was a farmer. Most notably, males raised on a larger farmstead, an indicator of a higher socioeconomic status, experienced lower risk of mortality than those raised by farmers owning fewer acres. Results were widely different for females, who did not gain an advantage from being raised on a farm, wealthy or not, regardless of homeownership, but instead from having a literate father. Accounting for selection bias and shared frailty among brothers served to enhance the significance and effect size of acreage wealth and of other early life factors in the prediction of male adult mortality risk. This study provides evidence that early life effects on later life health and mortality could often be underestimated, due to a failure to account for selection and unobserved heterogeneity.

Suggested Citation

  • Gagnon, Alain & Bohnert, Nora, 2012. "Early life socioeconomic conditions in rural areas and old-age mortality in twentieth-century Quebec," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1497-1504.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:8:p:1497-1504
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.007

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark Hayward & Bridget Gorman, 2004. "The long arm of childhood: The influence of early-life social conditions on men’s mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(1), pages 87-107, February.
    2. L. Randall Wray & Stephanie Bell, 2004. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Credit and State Theories of Money, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Gerard van den Berg & Gabriele Doblhammer-Reiter & Kaare Christensen, 2011. "Being Born Under Adverse Economic Conditions Leads to a Higher Cardiovascular Mortality Rate Later in Life: Evidence Based on Individuals Born at Different Stages of the Business Cycle," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(2), pages 507-530, May.
    4. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    5. Jenifer Hamil-Luker & Angela O’rand, 2007. "Gender differences in the link between childhood socioeconomic conditions and heart attack risk in adulthood," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 137-158, February.
    6. Notkola, V. & Punsar, S. & Karvonen, M. J. & Haapakoski, J., 1985. "Socio-economic conditions in childhood and mortality and morbidity caused by coronary heart disease in adulthood in rural Finland," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 517-523, January.
    7. Preston, Samuel H. & Hill, Mark E. & Drevenstedt, Greg L., 1998. "Childhood conditions that predict survival to advanced ages among African-Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(9), pages 1231-1246, November.
    8. Philippe Robert-Demontrond & R. Ringoot, 2004. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00081823, HAL.
    9. Smith, Ken R. & Mineau, Geraldine P. & Garibotti, Gilda & Kerber, Richard, 2009. "Effects of childhood and middle-adulthood family conditions on later-life mortality: Evidence from the Utah Population Database, 1850-2002," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(9), pages 1649-1658, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Helgertz, Jonas & Persson, Mats R., 2014. "Early life conditions and long-term sickness absence during adulthood – A longitudinal study of 9000 siblings in Sweden," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 224-231.


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