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The Conquest of High Mortality and Hunger in Europe and America: Timing and Mechanisms

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  • Robert William Fogel

Abstract

The modern secular decline in mortality in Western Europe did not begin until the 1780s and the first wave of improvement was over by 1840. The elimination of famines and of crisis mortality played only a secondary role during the first wave of the decline and virtually none thereafter. Reductions in chronic malnutrition Were much more important and may have accounted for most of the improvement in life expectation before 1875. Chronic malnutrition were much more important and may have accounted for most of the improvement in life expectation before 1875. Chronic malnutrition could not have been eliminated merely by more humane national policies, but required major advances in productive technology. Although there Were some improvements in the health, nutritional status, and longevity of the lower classes in England and France between 1830 and the end of the nineteenth century, these advances were modest and unstable, and included some reversals. An even larger reversal occurred among the lower classes in the United States. Although the technological progress, industrialization, and urbanization of the nineteenth century laid the basis for a remarkable advance in health and nutritional status during the first half of the twentieth century their effects on the conditions of life of the lower classes were mixed at least until the 1870s or 1880s. The great gains of the lower classes were concentrated in the sixty-five years between 1890 and 1955. Improvement in nutrition and health may account for as much as 30 percent of the growth in conventionally measured per capita income between 1790 and 1980 in Western Europe, but for a much smaller proportion in the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert William Fogel, 1990. "The Conquest of High Mortality and Hunger in Europe and America: Timing and Mechanisms," NBER Historical Working Papers 0016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0016
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    Cited by:

    1. Walter Buhr, 2009. "Infrastructure of the Market Economy," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 132-09, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.
    2. Diao, Xinshen & Hazell, Peter & Resnick, Danielle & Thurlow, James, 2006. "The role of agriculture in development: implications for Sub-Saharan Africa," DSGD discussion papers 29, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    4. Erich Gundlach, 1997. "Human capital and economic development: A macroeconomic assessment," Intereconomics: Review of European Economic Policy, Springer;German National Library of Economics;Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), vol. 32(1), pages 23-35, January.
    5. Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 1996. "Wealthier is Healthier," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 841-868.
    6. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt, 2010. "Complements Versus Substitutes And Trends In Fertility Choice In Dynastic Models," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(3), pages 671-699, August.
    7. Easterly, William, 1999. "Life during growth : international evidence on quality of life and per capita income," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2110, The World Bank.
    8. Matthew Higgins & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1996. "Asian Demography and Foreign Capital Dependence," NBER Working Papers 5560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Marcel Fafchamps & Agnes R. Quisumbing, 1999. "Human Capital, Productivity, and Labor Allocation in Rural Pakistan," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(2), pages 369-406.
    10. Dao, Minh Quang, 2009. "Health, Economic Development, and Poverty in Developing Countries," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 62(2), pages 163-174.
    11. Nadia Hanif & Noman Arshed, 2016. "Relationship between School Education and Economic Growth: SAARC Countries," International Journal of Economics and Financial Issues, Econjournals, vol. 6(1), pages 294-300.

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