The contribution of urbanization to changes in life expectancy in Scotland, 1861–1910

Catalina Torres, Vladimir Canudas-Romo, Jim Oeppen

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    23 Citations (Scopus)


    During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, urban populations in Europe and North America continued to be afflicted by very high mortality as rapid urbanization and industrialization processes got underway. Here we measure the effect of population redistribution from (low-mortality) rural to (high-mortality) urban areas on changes in Scottish life expectancy at birth from 1861 to 1910. Using vital registration data for that period, we apply a new decomposition method that decomposes changes in life expectancy into the contributions of two main components: (1) changes in mortality; and (2) compositional changes in the population. We find that, besides an urban penalty (higher mortality in urban areas), an urbanization penalty (negative effect of population redistribution to urban areas on survival) existed in Scotland during the study period. In the absence of the urbanization penalty, Scottish life expectancy at birth could have attained higher values by the beginning of the twentieth century.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)387-404
    Number of pages18
    JournalPopulation Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2019


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