Inequality in early life: Social class differences in childhood mortality in southern Sweden, 1815–1967

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Abstract

This article analyses the long-term development of social class differences in infant and child mortality in an area of southern Sweden, spanning from the early stages of the mortality transition at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to the late 1960s when both infant and child mortality had reached very low levels. Our findings show that infant and child mortality was fairly equal at the beginning of the study period. We find no clear pattern of class differentials in childhood mortality in the first half of the nineteenth century when both infant and child mortality declined. Later in the nineteenth century, class differences started to emerge. This is clear for both post-neonatal mortality and child mortality, while we do not find any class differences in neonatal mortality. Over time, a more or less full gradient emerged for post-neonatal mortality, and a weak gradient also emerged for child mortality. Strikingly, the disadvantaged position for unskilled and lower-skilled workers remained throughout the 1960s, also at a time when mortality levels were very low, and living standards had increased dramatically for all classes in the population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475– 502
JournalEconomic History Review
Volume75
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Apr 22

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Keywords

  • child mortality
  • infant mortality
  • neonatal mortality
  • social class
  • inequality
  • socio-economic gradient
  • Sweden
  • nineteenth century
  • twentieth century

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