Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics
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Department of Economic History, Lund University Lund Papers in Economic History, Department of Economic History, Lund University

No 148:
Unequal lands: Soil type, nutrition and child mortality in southern Sweden, 1850-1914

Finn Hedefalk (), Luciana Quaranta () and Tommy Bengtsson ()

Abstract: Child mortality differed greatly within rural regions in Europe before and during the mortality decline. Not much is known about the role of nutrition in such geographic differences, and about the factors affecting the nutritional level and hence the resistance to diseases. Focusing on nutrition, we analyse the effects of soil type, used as an indicator of the farm-level agricultural productivity and hence of nutritional status, on mortality of children aged 1-15 living in five rural parishes in southern Sweden, 1850-1914. Using longitudinal demographic data combined with unique geographic micro-data on residential histories, the effect of soil type on the mortality risks are analysed considering as outcome all-cause mortality and mortality from non-airborne and airborne infectious diseases. Soil type primarily affected the mortality of farmersí children, but not labourersí children. Particularly, farmersí children residing in areas with very high proportions of clayey till (75-100% coverage) experienced lower risks of dying compared to children residing in areas with other soil types such as clay and sandy soils. Certain soil types seem to have influenced the agricultural productivity, which, in turn, affected the nutrition of the farmersí children and thus their likelihood of dying. The results indicate a relatively important role of nutrition as a mortality predictor for these children. As, to our knowledge, the first longitudinal study on the micro-level that analyses the effects of soil type on mortality in a historical rural society, we contribute to the literature on the role of nutrition on the risk of dying in a pre-industrial society

Keywords: child mortality; geographic context variables; GIS; historical demography; soil quality; southern Sweden; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: J10; N50; N90; (follow links to similar papers)

44 pages, September 21, 2016

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