Racial Differences in Childhood Mortality during the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

David Hacker, Deoartment of History - Binghamton Univeristy
Jonas Helgertz, University of Minnesota/Lund University
Richard L. Steckel, The Ohio State University
Nicolas Ziebarth, Auburn University

We study racial differences in childhood mortality during the late 19th and early 20th century. We build a sample of children linked over time and infer child mortality if we are unable to find someone in a subsequent census. Black children between ages 0-4 experience mortality rates between 4 and 8 percentage points higher than whites in 1870. This difference shrinks but does not disappear after controlling for father’s observable characteristics such as occupation This suggests that the cost of discrimination in terms of childhood mortality is not simply due to discrimination in economic opportunity. The mortality gap does not change much through 1900 before shrinking by around 3 percentage points in 1940. We speculate on why this gap shrink even as legal discrimination in the form of Jim Crow laws rises in the first half of the 20th century.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 197. The Consequences of Racial Differences