Childhood Conditions and Exceptional Longevity

Leonid A. Gavrilov, University of Chicago
Natalia S. Gavrilova, University of Chicago

This study explores the possible impact of childhood conditions on survival to 100 years and beyond. To this aim, we extracted and validated records for over 500 alleged centenarians born in 1890-1899 in the United States from over 300,000 online family histories. This study suggests that there may be a link between exceptional longevity and a person's birth order and this effect is gendered: the first-born daughters are three times more likely to survive to age 100, compared to daughters of higher birth orders (7+). Our study confirms earlier findings by Preston et al. (1998) that farm background is an important factor of survival to old ages. We also found that chances for exceptional survival are higher for persons born in the Western regions of the United States where the childhood mortality levels in 1900 were reported to be particularly low.

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Presented in Session 135: Early Life Experiences and Mortality