Famines and mortality crises in 18th to 19th century southern Sweden

Tommy Bengtsson, Göran Bröstrom


Causality is an important but complicated issue, not only within social sciences in general but also within economic and historical demography. Here we are dealing with two different, but related, problems of causality. The first is to what extent the impact of food prices on mortality is biased when selecting on years with mortality crises. The second concerns the problem of mixing factors that directly and indirectly have an impact on mortality. Dealing with the first problem, we compare the effects of food prices on child and adult mortality when selecting on mortality crises with a standard approach without selection. When dealing with the second problem we use the additive hazards model, in combination with dynamic path analysis, which allows for investigating the mediating effect of intermediate covariates in a causal framework. We use individual level data from the Scanian Economic Demographic Database for five rural parishes for the period 1766 to 1865. Data on food prices refers to the local area of these parishes. The statistical analyses are performed in the R statistical computing environment, especially with the aid of the package eha. The main findings are that selecting on mortality crises created a large bias in the direction of overestimating the impact of food prices and that that the direct effects of food prices are dominating.





Tommy BENGTSSON, Professor of Demography and Economic History, Centre for Economic Demography (CED) and Department of Economic History, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden. E-mail:

Göran BROSTRÖM, Professor of Statistics, Centre for Population Studies (ALC), Department of Statistics, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden. E-mail:















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ISSN: 2035-5556

Reg. Tribunale di Roma n. 3321/54