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The declines in infant mortality and fertility: Evidence from British cities in demographic transition


  • Andrew Newell

    () (Department of Economics, University of Sussex, UK
    IZA, Bonn, Germany)

  • Ian Gazeley

    () (Department of History, University of Sussex, UK)


At the beginning of the twentieth century Britain was roughly halfway through a 60-year demographic transition with declining infant mortality and birth rates. Cities exhibited great and strongly correlated diversity in these rates. We demonstrate cross–section correlations with, for instance, women’s employment, population density, literacy and improved water supply and sanitation, that have been linked to the transition. When we analyse data from the late 1850s and the early 1900s, the changes in the two rates are not correlated across cities, but we find a robust and large impact from sanitation improvement to long-period infant mortality reduction. We also find the extension of basic literacy is related to increases in female labour market participation, which is in turn related to fertility reduction. Lastly we find that more rapid urban growth accelerates fertility decline, but, in late 19th century Britain it slowed the reduction of infant mortality.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Newell & Ian Gazeley, 2012. "The declines in infant mortality and fertility: Evidence from British cities in demographic transition," Working Paper Series 4812, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:sus:susewp:4812

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 279-288, Part II, .
    2. Oded Galor, 2012. "The demographic transition: causes and consequences," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 6(1), pages 1-28, January.
    3. Ian Gazeley & Andrew Newell, 2012. "The end of destitution: evidence from urban British working households 1904--37," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(1), pages 80-102, January.
    4. Murthi, Mamta, 2002. "Fertility Change in Asia and Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(10), pages 1769-1778, October.
    5. Matthias Doepke, 2005. "Child mortality and fertility decline: Does the Barro-Becker model fit the facts?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 18(2), pages 337-366, June.
    6. Gazeley, Ian & Newell, Andrew T., 2009. "The End of Destitution," IZA Discussion Papers 4295, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Bailey, Roy E. & Hatton, Timothy J. & Inwood, Kris, 2014. "Health, Height and the Household at the Turn of the 20th Century," IZA Discussion Papers 8128, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Timothy J. Hatton, 2015. "Stature and Sibship: Historical Evidence," CEH Discussion Papers 039, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    3. Nadia Diamond-Smith & David Bishai, 2015. "Evidence of Self-correction of Child Sex Ratios in India: A District-Level Analysis of Child Sex Ratios From 1981 to 2011," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 641-666, April.
    4. Shcherbakova, Nadezda, 2013. "Urbanization as a way of saving our planet from overpopulation," MPRA Paper 52299, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    Fertility; infant mortality; education and sanitary reform; 19th century and early 20th century Britain.;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development

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