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The Demography of an Early Mortality Transition: Life Expectancy, Survival and Mortality Rates for Britain's Royals, 1500-1799

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  • Paul David
  • S. Ryan Johansson and Andrea Pozzi

Abstract

This paper details the statistical sources, methods and findings that underpin the demographic evidence offered by Johansson (2010) in support of her thesis regarding "Europe's first knowledge-driven mortality transition", namely the pronounced and sustained rise in the expectations of life that took place among the 17th and early 18th century birth cohorts of members of Britain's royal families. The consequent interest in exposing the existence of systematic demographic effects of changes in the medical treatments and healthcare regimes received by this elite makes it germane to establish the statistical significance of a particular pattern of inter-cohort changes in the royals' mortality experience - namely, one whose timing and age- and sex-specificity make it plausibly attributable to the historical improvements in the medical knowledge and practice of their doctors, as has been documented by Johansson (1999, 2010). Complete genealogical data for the members of Britain's royal families born c. 1500 - c. 1800, due to Weir (1996), permits construction of cohort life expectancy at birth and age 25 for royal males, royal females, as well as for the small number of male monarchs, their female consorts and the queens. Inter-cohort comparisons of life table mortality schedules are obtained by using the 5-year average survival rate distributions for the successive birth cohorts to estimate for each cohort the parameters of Anson's (1991) general model of age-specific mortality hazard rates - the empirical probability of dying within 5 years of age x, conditional on having survived to that age. A variety of tests show the gross changes of interest to be statistically significant. The discussion contrasts the mortality transition among the royal families' members with the contemporaneous demographic experience of rural and urban segments of the English population at large.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul David & S. Ryan Johansson and Andrea Pozzi, 2010. "The Demography of an Early Mortality Transition: Life Expectancy, Survival and Mortality Rates for Britain's Royals, 1500-1799," Economics Series Working Papers Number 83, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:number-83
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. S. Ryan Johansson, 2010. "Medics, Monarchs and Mortality, 1600-1800: Origins of the Knowledge-Driven Health Transition in Europe," Economics Series Working Papers Number85, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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