chapter  10
28 Pages

Economics and infant mortality decline in German towns, 1889–1912: household behaviour and public intervention

ByJohn C. Brown

The decline in infantmortality was of key importance for sustaining the decline in general mortality that began in the last third of the nineteenth century. Aside from offering a particular example of dramatic mortality decline, the case of Germany also highlights some of the key points at issue in explaining the decline in infant mortality throughout Europe and the United States during this period. The economic models of household behaviour first pioneered by the economist Gary Becker and subsequently applied in a number of studies of household behaviour with respect to health and mortality offer a coherent approach to identifying other potential sources of such simultaneity bias. Placing the explanations for infant mortality decline in the historical literature in the context of the household decision-making model suggests three important methodological points about efforts to examine hypotheses. The policies designed to achieve the goal of reducing infant mortality would appear to have had only a limited effectiveness.