Infant mortality differentials in Tartu (Estonia): social and environmental factors, 1897-1900

Hannaliis Jaadla, Tallinn University

Using parish registers (1897–1900), linked to the first Russian Imperial census of 1897, this study investigates infant mortality among the Lutheran population in Tartu at the end of 19th century. Previous studies based on aggregate data have shown early onset of demographic transition in Estonia, particularly in regard to parity-specific fertility limitation, however the national average infant mortality rate (IMR) at the end of 19th century appears considerably higher than in other European countries with early demographic transition. The results demonstrate that the overall level of IMR (144 per 1000 live births) among the Lutheran population of Tartu was lower than the estimates for Estonia as a whole. The results reveal considerable variation in infant mortality according to parents’ demographic, cultural and socio-economic characteristics, and sanitary conditions. Even after controlling for the influence of socio-economic status, infants born to the Baltic-German families had higher survival rates than those born to Estonian families. This lends support to the view of Baltic-Germans as forerunners of demographic modernisation in Estonia. Paternal socio-economic characteristics appeared stronger predictors of infant deaths than mother’s level of education and employment. Lower infant mortality was characteristic of infants whose fathers were employed in professional and sales occupations. Being born out-of-wedlock and belonging to households that acquired drinking water from the river exerted a strong negative effect in infant survival.

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Presented in Session 22: Special thematic session on demographic transition: processes and consequences, 19-20th century