The impact of early life conditions on female reproductive health, southern Sweden 1813-1968

Luciana Quaranta, Lund University

The importance of early life conditions for health in later life has been known for many years. Recent developments in modelling techniques have given rise to a series of in-depth studies which have focused, amongst other things, on educational attainment, labour market outcomes, adult health, the incidence of particular diseases and old-age mortality. Not many studies, however, focus on the impact on health during early adulthood and, in particular, the literature that analyzes the effect of early life conditions on female reproductive health by taking a life course approach is scant and often inconclusive. Using data from the Scanian Demographic Database, which is based on family reconstitutions from church records on births, deaths and marriages for five rural parishes for the years 1813 to 1968, this work studies the impact of nutrition during the fetal stage and of the disease load experienced in infancy on the fertility outcomes of women by analysing the sex ratios at birth and the probability that her offspring will die perinatally. We find that exposure to disease in a female´s early life reduces her likelihood of giving birth to a boy for second and higher order parities.

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Presented in Session 63: Life course

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