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Fatal Years

Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America

Samuel H. Preston
Michael R. Haines
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztqqf
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    Fatal Years
    Book Description:

    Fatal Yearsis the first systematic study of child mortality in the United States in the late nineteenth century. Exploiting newly discovered data from the 1900 Census of Population, Samuel Preston and Michael Haines present their findings in a volume that is not only a pioneering work of demography but also an accessible and moving historical narrative. Despite having a rich, well-fed, and highly literate population, the United States had exceptionally high child-mortality levels during this period: nearly one out of every five children died before the age of five. Preston and Haines challenge accepted opinion to show that losses in privileged social groups were as appalling as those among lower classes. Improvements came only with better knowledge about infectious diseases and greater public efforts to limit their spread. The authors look at a wide range of topics, including differences in mortality in urban versus rural areas and the differences in child mortality among various immigration groups. "Fatal Years is an extremely important contribution to our understanding of child mortality in the United States at the turn of the century. The new data and its analysis force everyone to reconsider previous work and statements about U.S. mortality in that period. The book will quickly become a standard in the field."--Maris A. Vinovskis, University of Michigan

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6189-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. ONE THE SOCIAL AND MEDICAL CONTEXT OF CHILD MORTALITY IN THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 3-48)

    BY THE LATE nineteenth century, epidemics of cholera, typhus, yellow fever, and plague were claiming many fewer lives in the modernizing states of Europe and North America. Governments had successfully asserted their rights to quarantine infected populations when these episodic horrors appeared, and improved standards of military hygiene had also blunted the diseasesʹ spread (Kunitz 1983, 1986). Increasingly, the diseases of consequence were of an endemic infectious nature, the products of pathogens that were ever-present in communities and that took their greatest toll among infants and young children. These diseases were sufficiently dangerous to produce mortality levels that were, by...

  6. TWO NEW ESTIMATES OF CHILD MORTALITY DURING THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 49-87)

    THE BASIC PURPOSE of this chapter is to use the public use sample of the 1900 census to construct improved estimates of levels of child mortality in the United States during the last decade of the nineteenth century. The 1900 census asked questions on the number of children that had been born to women and the number of those children who were still living at the time of the census. These data do not provide direct information on such conventional life table measures as the infant mortality rate or the probability of dying before age 5. Instead, these measures must...

  7. THREE DIFFERENCES IN CHILD MORTALITY AMONG SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND RESIDENTIAL GROUPS
    (pp. 88-136)

    MORTALITY is one of the most important measures of social inequality because it indicates a groupʹs success in providing members with the most highly prized of all attributes, life itself. The sample of census enumeratorsʹ schedules from the 1900 U.S. Census affords the first opportunity to examine differences in child mortality among major social groups throughout the United States at the turn of the century.

    We use this resource in the present chapter to draw a map of this largely uncharted territory. In so doing, we draw upon and extend some of the discussion in Chapter 1 about causal factors...

  8. FOUR DISTINGUISHING THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF VARIOUS SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND RESIDENTIAL FACTORS
    (pp. 137-176)

    IN CHAPTER 3, we presented information about the extent of child mortality variation among major social groupings of the American population at the turn of the century. Occasionally, we examined variation according to factors taken two or three at a time, but cell sizes often quickly became too small to produce reliable results. There was, consequently, little opportunity to consider which of the many factors reviewed are most closely associated with child mortality and which appear essentially irrelevant once other factors are taken into account. This chapter addresses these questions through multivariate analysis.

    Death is a biological event, and all...

  9. FIVE AMERICAN CHILD MORTALITY DIFFERENTIALS IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE
    (pp. 177-207)

    THE PATTERNS OF child mortality differences demonstrated in Chapters 3 and 4 are the outcomes of a complex array of factors, including the relative social and economic standings of different groups, differences in child-care practices, and the disparate disease environments in which the groups were located. In order to gain insight into the importance of these factors in fashioning the observed differentials in child mortality, it is useful to compare the American circumstances that we have described to those in other societies. For comparative purposes we have chosen to focus in this chapter on child mortality differentials in England and...

  10. SIX YESTERDAY AND TODAY: RESTATEMENT OF A MAIN THEME
    (pp. 208-210)

    IN 1900, the United States was the richest country in the world (Cole and Deane 1965: Table IV). Its population was also highly literate and exceptionally well-fed. On the scale of per capita income, literacy, and food consumption, it would rank in the top quarter of countries were it somehow transplanted to the present. Yet 18 percent of its children were dying before age 5, a figure that would rank in the bottom quarter of contemporary countries.

    Why couldnʹt the United States translate its economic and social advantages into better levels of child survival? Our explanation is that infectious disease...

  11. APPENDIX A ASSIGNING INCOME AND UNEMPLOYMENT ESTIMATES TO INDIVIDUALS IN THE NATIONAL SAMPLE OF THE 1900 UNITED STATES CENSUS
    (pp. 211-220)
  12. APPENDIX B THE STATE EARNINGS INDEX
    (pp. 221-225)
  13. APPENDIX C THE MORTALITY INDEX
    (pp. 226-228)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 229-236)
  15. REFERENCES
    (pp. 237-258)
  16. Index
    (pp. 259-266)