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Trends and Determinants of Adult Mortality in Early New England: Reconciling Old and New Evidence from the Long Eighteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2016

Extract

Despite decades of research, demographic historians are still uncertain about mortality trends and determinants in early New England. Although researchers agree that New England mortality was low relative to other regions of early America in the seventeenth century, they disagree about the direction of mortality trends over the course of the eighteenth century. Community-based reconstitution studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s at first seemed to provide strong evidence of a decline in adult life expectancy (Greven 1970; Norton 1971; Vinovskis 1972; D. S. Smith 1973). More recent studies, however, contradict the assessment of deteriorating health conditions in eighteenth-century New England. Family-based genealogical studies document a substantial long-term increase in adult male life expectancy over the course of the century, although the increase was followed by a slight decline in the early part of the nineteenth century (Fogel 1986; Kasakoff and Adams 1995).

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Copyright © Social Science History Association 1997

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