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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
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Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2012052
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  1. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2004. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 9, Econometric Society.
  3. DE LA CROIX, David & LINDH, Thomas & MALMBERG, Bo, . "Swedish economic growth and education since 1800," CORE Discussion Papers RP -2063, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. BOUCEKKINE, Raouf & DE LA CROIX, David & LICANDRO, Omar, . "Early mortality declines at the dawn of modern growth," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1681, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Raouf Boucekkine & David de la Croix & Omar Licandro, . "vintage human capital, demographic trends and endogenous growth," Working Papers 2000-02, FEDEA.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Tine De Moor & Jaco Zuijderduijn, 2013. "The Art of Counting: Reconstructing Numeracy of the Middle and Upper Classes on the Basis of Portraits in the Early Modern Low Countries," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(1), pages 41-56, March.
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  10. Oksana Leukhina & Michael Bar, 2010. "The Role of Mortality in the Transmission of Knowledge," 2010 Meeting Papers 1256, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Nancy Qian & Nathan Nunn, 2010. "The Potato’s Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment," Working Papers id:2792, eSocialSciences.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
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  15. 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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