IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

New estimates of settler life span and other demographic trends in South Africa, 1652–1948


  • Jeanne Cilliers

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Johan Fourie

    () (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)


To date very little has been known about the demography of European settlers in South Africa, since descriptions have only been based on Ross’s 1975 calculations of a small sample of 300 observations in the Cape Colony. In this paper we provide a broader and deeper account, using a dataset drawn from the Genealogical Institute of South Africa (2008) that includes information on 401,602 observations of settlers in South Africa and spans the period 1652 to 1948. We estimate useful descriptive statistics on key demographic indicators: population dynamics, age distribution, longevity, marriage patterns, and dependency burdens. These shed new light on the development and demographic transition of the South African settler population and enable international comparisons.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeanne Cilliers & Johan Fourie, 2012. "New estimates of settler life span and other demographic trends in South Africa, 1652–1948," Working Papers 20/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers173

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2012
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2013. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The National Accounts of a Slave-Based Society," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 81(4), pages 467-490, December.
    2. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. An ode to demography
      by Johan Fourie in Johan Fourie's Blog on 2013-01-21 03:07:23


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Piraino, Patrizio & Muller, Sean & Cilliers, Jeanne & Fourie, Johan, 2013. "The transmission of longevity across generations: The case of the settler Cape Colony," SALDRU Working Papers 113, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    2. Johan Fourie & Dieter Fintel, 2014. "Settler skills and colonial development: the Huguenot wine-makers in eighteenth-century Dutch South Africa," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 932-963, November.
    3. Jeanne Cilliers & Martine Mariotti, 2019. "The shaping of a settler fertility transition: eighteenth- and nineteenth-century South African demographic history reconsidered," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(4), pages 421-445.
    4. Jeanne Cilliers & Martine Mariotti, 2019. "Stop! Go! What can we learn about family planning from birth timing in settler South Africa, 1800-1910?," CEH Discussion Papers 05, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.

    More about this item


    historical demography; economic development; population dynamics; living standards; family life; life span; age distribution; marriage patterns; South Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers173. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Melt van Schoor). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.