Estimated Life Tables for the United States, 1850-1900

Michael R. Haines

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 59
Issued in September 1994
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

This paper presents three sets of estimated life tables by sex for the total and white populations of the United States for the second half of the nineteenth century. The first set uses the Brass [1975] two parameter logit model with the 1900/02 Death Registration Area life tables as the standards. Available empirical American life tables for the period 1830-1911 are used to establish the relationship between the level and structure of mortality. Data on deaths for the ages 5-19 in the year prior to the census (from the decennial federal censuses of 1850-1900) are actually used to obtain the national tables. The second set of life tables also uses the census mortality data for the ages 5-19 but fits Coale and Demeny [1966] West Model life tables. Both these sets of life tables were derived following procedures in Haines [1979]. The third set of life tables was estimated from the public use micro-sample of the 1900 U.S. census from data on the number of children ever born, the number of children surviving, and the age structure of surviving children to women aged 14-34. Given the lack of national life tables for the United States prior to the early twentieth century, it is hoped that these tables will be of value in research on mortality and on issues for which mortality and survival probabilities by age, sex, and race are used. The overall results confirm that the sustained modern mortality transition in the United States did not begin until approximately 1880. Prior to that time, it appears that mortality was not under control.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0059

Published: Historical Methods, Vol. 31, no. 4 (Fall 1998): 149-169.

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