Effects of kin and birth order on male child mortality: an East Asian comparison of three historical populations

Hao Dong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Satomi Kurosu, Reitaku University
Wen-shan Yang, Academia Sinica
James Z. Lee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Human child survival, like many mammals, depends on parental supervision and support. In spite of the recent development of research on the effects of parents and grandparents on infant and child mortality using human population data, studies that directly examine the sibling mortality difference derived from the interplay between kin effects and birth order are still rare. This paper is an attempt to supplement such literature by using individual level panel data to examine and compare both the average effects of presence of parents and other kin on male infant and child mortality, and their interaction effects with birth order in three East Asian historical populations from northeast China, northeast Japan, and northern Taiwan comprising 2.1 million observations of 0.3 million individuals between 1716 and 1945. We apply discrete-time event-history method on 141373 observations of 64734 boys aged 1 – 9. We find while presence of parents is important to child survival on average, both presence of parents and presence of grandmothers favors the survival of earlier-borns over later-borns in all these three populations. These findings underline the importance of birth order in understanding differential parental and grandmother effects on sibling mortality difference, which are largely overlooked by existing theory as well as empirical studies.

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Presented in Session 33: Associations, pathways and familial background