The Lasting Damage to Mortality of Early-Life Adversity: Evidence from the English Famine of the late 1720s
This paper explores the long-term impact on mortality of exposure to early-life hardship. Using survival analysis, we document that birth during the great English famine of the late 1720s manifest itself in an increased death risk throughout life among those who survive the famine years. Using demographic data from the Cambridge Group’s Population History of England, we find that the death risk of affected individuals who survived to age 10 is up to 66 percent higher than that of their control–group counterparts (those born in the five years following the famine). This corresponds to a loss of life-expectancy of more than 12 years. We find that effects differ geographically as well as with the socioeconomic status of the household, with less well-off (manual-worker) families and families living in the English Midlands being hit the hardest. Evidence does not suggest, however, that children born in the five years prior to the famine suffered increased death risk.
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