Childhood Exposure to Disease and Old Age Mortality: Long-Term Perspectives from the Nineteenth Century
George Alter, Indiana University
Michel Oris, Université de Genève
Recent studies suggest that poor conditions in early childhood may have long-term effects on adult and old age mortality. We make use of a natural experiment that results from urban to rural migration in the mid-nineteenth century. Mortality was much higher in urban areas, especially in rapidly growing industrial cities. Migrants usually came from healthier rural origins as young adults. Data for this study is available from 19th-century Belgian population registers describing three quite different sites: a poor rural area; a rapidly growing industrial city; a small town that became an industrial suburb. Occupational data allows us to control for socio-economic status in both childhood and adulthood. In addition, heights of males linked to military conscription lists provide heights, a good summary measure of childhood nutrition. We use event history methods to ask whether differences in childhood environment are reflected in mortality in later life.