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The Longevity of Famous People from Hammurabi to Einstein

  • David De la Croix
  • Omar Licandro

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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  1. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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  11. DE LA CROIX, David & LICANDRO, Omar, 2007. "‘The child is father of the man’: implications for the demographic transition," CORE Discussion Papers 2007072, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. David de la Croix & Thomas Lindh & Bo Malmberg, 2008. "Swedish economic growth and education since 1800," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(1), pages 166-185, February.
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