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The longevity of famous people from Hammurabi to Einstein

  • DE LA CROIX, David


    (Université catholique de Louvain, CORE and IRES, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

  • LICANDRO, Omar

    (IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE)

We built 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 there was no trend in mortality rates during the Malthusian era. Second, after correcting for selection and composition biases, we date the beginning of the steady improvements in longevity to the cohort born in 1640-9, clearly preceding the Industrial Revolution. Third, we find that this timing of improvements in longevity concerns most countries in Europe, as well as all types of skilled occupations. Finally, the reasons for this early increase in mean lifetime are related to age-dependent shifts in the survival law.

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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers with number 2012052.

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Date of creation: 21 Dec 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2012052
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Voie du Roman Pays 34, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium)

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