The health cost of living in a city: the case of France at the end of the 19th century.

Lionel Kesztenbaum, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, California Institute of Technology

Despite increasing interest in urban living conditions during industrialization, the impact of rural-urban migrations on health and mortality remains an open question. We observe both mortality and geographical mobility in a large longitudinal dataset of French males born in 1860. We compute the marginal effect on health of living in an urban area. We show that this effect is negative and remains significant in most part of the life cycle. At the same time, rural-urban migrants benefited from clear advantages in terms of health over those who already lived in the city. However, this benefit fades in less than ten years: after staying in an urban area, migrants converge to the same mortality rates as those who grew up there. These findings refute the idea of an immunization process through rural exodus; they argue in favour of a direct link between bad city conditions and urban over-mortality.

  See paper

Presented in Session 17: Dimensions of mortality in the past