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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
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:666
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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 ECO2007/05, European University Institute.
  2. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2011. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 593-650.
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  4. 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.
  5. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "The Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 285-351, June.
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  7. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2003. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," Development and Comp Systems 0312006, EconWPA.
  8. Holger Strulik & Sebastian Vollmer, 2011. "Long-Run Trends of Human Aging and Longevity," PGDA Working Papers 7311, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  9. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
  10. Raouf Boucekkine & David de la Croix & Omar Licandro, 2003. "Early Mortality Declines at the Dawn of Modern Growth," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(3), pages 401-418, 09.
  11. Cervellati, Matteo & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Human Capital, Mortality and Fertility: A Unified Theory of the Economic and Demographic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 6384, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Determinants of Mortality," Working Papers 235, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  13. John Wilmoth & Shiro Horiuchi, 1999. "Rectangularization revisited: Variability of age at death within human populations," Demography, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 475-495, November.
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  15. Boucekkine, Raouf & de la Croix, David & Licandro, Omar, 2002. "Vintage Human Capital, Demographic Trends, and Endogenous Growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 104(2), pages 340-375, June.
  16. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2082, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. 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 1993-1, Nobel Prize Committee.
  18. repec:cai:poeine:pope_1004_0631 is not listed on IDEAS
  19. Michael Bar & Oksana Leukhina, 2009. "The Role of Mortality in the Transmission of Knowledge," DEGIT Conference Papers c014_021, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  20. 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 0016, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
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  23. Frans van Poppel & Dirk J. van de Kaa & Govert E. Bijwaard, 2013. "Life expectancy of artists in the Low Countries from the fifteenth to the twentieth century," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 67(3), pages 275-292, November.
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  25. 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, vol. 62(02), pages 322-355, June.
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