The Role of Deaths Following Childbirth in Sex Differences in Mortality. Lecture, 12 December 2022

Fundación BBVA at Palacio del Marqués de Salamanca. Paseo de Recoletos, 10. Madrid

December 12, 2022


19.00 – 20.30 CEST

In most historical populations, female death rates exceed male death rates during the reproductive ages. Deaths related to childbirth were an important contributor to this pattern, but maternal mortality may not have been the only cause of excess female mortality. This paper revisits the first historical estimates of maternal mortality constructed by Roger Schofield from family reconstitutions of English villages covering 1540 to 1837. Sex differences in adult mortality are estimated by comparing wives and husbands in the two years following a birth. Event history methods applied to deaths by time since the last birth are used to separate deaths resulting from childbirth from other causes of death. These new methods confirm and expand upon Schofield’s estimates of maternal mortality.  Female mortality was higher than male mortality even when deaths following childbirth are removed, and variations in maternal mortality over time were similar to changes in background mortality for both men and women.

Dr. George Alter

is Research Professor Emeritus in the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. His research integrates theory and methods from demography, economics, and family history with historical sources to understand demographic behaviors in the past. From 2007 to 2016, Alter was Director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, the world’s largest archive of social science data, and he is a past president of the Social Science History Association. He has been active in international efforts to promote research transparency, data sharing, and secure access to confidential research data. He is currently engaged in projects to create FAIR vocabularies in population research, to automate the capture of metadata from statistical analysis software, and to compare fertility transitions in contemporary and historical populations.