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

55 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 20 Sep 2014

See all articles by Paul A. David

Paul A. David

Stanford University - Department of Economics; University of Oxford - All Souls College; UNU-MERIT (Maastricht)

S. Ryan Johansson

Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure

Andrea Pozzi

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)

Date Written: July 24, 2010

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 at age 25 for royal males, royal females, as well 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 rates distributions for successive birth cohorts to estimate for each cohort the parameters of Anson’s (1991) general model of age‐specific mortality hazards rates – the empirical probability of dying within 5 years of age x, conditional 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 over the period 1500‐1800.

Keywords: demographic history, mortality transition, elite populations, medical knowledge

JEL Classification: I12,J11, N33

Suggested Citation

David, Paul A. and Johansson, Sheila Ryan and Pozzi, Andrea, The Demography of an Early Mortality Transition: Life Expectancy, Survival and Mortality Rates for Britain’s Royals, 1500‐1799 (July 24, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1641447 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1641447

Paul A. David (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

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UNU-MERIT (Maastricht) ( email )

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Sheila Ryan Johansson

Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure ( email )

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United Kingdom

Andrea Pozzi

Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) ( email )

Via Due Macelli, 73
Rome, 00187
Italy

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