Faulty Genes or Faulty Parents? Gender, Family and Survival in Early and Late Childhood in the Netherlands, 1860-1900.
SourceThe History of the Family, 15, 1, (2010), pp. 91-108
Article / Letter to the editor
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The History of the Family
SubjectPublic and private life: the history of politics and human life courses; Too young to die. Excess female mortality at young ages in the Netherlands, 1850-1930
According to the famous economist and Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen women have a significant biological advantage over men. Despite this fact women do not always live longer. In today's third world, but also in some areas in Europe at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century we find so-called excess female mortality. In this paper we examine child mortality in The Netherlands in general and gendered patterns of child mortality in particular. The focus is on differential mortality patterns by gender for infants, older children, and young adults up to age 20 in the second half of the 19th century. The analysis takes place at three levels. We start off with an exploration of sex differentials in mortality at the national level, based on the existing literature. We next examine gender differentials in mortality at the level of several Dutch communities, in the region called Twente, focussing on the differences between the city and the countryside. The final part of the analysis focuses on the micro level of the individual and his or her family in the rural community of Lonneker located in the Twente region. In this part of our study we make use of longitudinal individual level data which are analysed with event history methodologies. Our analysis clearly demonstrates that young women and girls in The Netherlands were not always in a position to fully capitalise upon their greater biological advantage and suffered instead considerable excess mortality. Especially in the rural parts of the country girls had lower survival chances. The individual level analysis confirms the importance of sex in explaining child and adolescent mortality. These gendered mortality risks can however not be attributed to social and economic household characteristics. The analysis also shows that, when death came, it literally affected the entire family. This phenomenon, better known under the label 'death clustering', may have been an effect of parental incompetence.
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