Mortality Differentials By Gender in the First Years of Life: The Effect of Household Structure in Casalguidi, 1819-1859

  • Matteo Manfredini Department of Life Sciences
  • Marco Breschi Department of Economics, University of Parma
  • Alessio Fornasin Department of Economics, University of Udine


There is a well-documented gender pattern of mortality during the first years of life. Girls have better survival chances during the first year of life, while boys tend to have better survival chances in the following years. In this paper, we focus on a possible social explanation for this inversion of the gender pattern of mortality. We investigated whether complex household structures lead to a survival disadvantage for infant girls. Large and complex households, especially in sharecropping societies, might incorporate some of the most important features causing gender differentials in mortality, such as: the key importance of the male labor force as a way to ensure their permanence on the farm, the consequent higher economic value of males, and rigidity of social roles within the household. The analysis is based on a sharecropping community of mid- nineteenth century Tuscany, whose findings are compared to a coeval population of Northern Italy to highlight the specificity of the sharecropping society.