Dalla Zuanna, Gianpiero and Rosina, Alessandro (2008) The fatal season. A study of extremely high 18th and 19th century winter neonatal mortality in northeastern Italy. [Working Paper] WORKING PAPER SERIES, 14/2008 . , PADOVA (Inedito)
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Beginning in the mid-17th century, infant mortality in Veneto (a region in northeastern Italy) began to increase, starting at 250‰and rising to 350‰ during the period of 1750-1850 – one of the highest levels ever recorded in modern Europe. By the early 1900s, however, infant mortality in Veneto had steadily dropped to 150‰, the lowest level among all of the Italian regions. These dramatic changes were due to variations in winter neonatal mortality which, during 1750-1850, was 3-4 times higher in Veneto than in other areas with similar winter temperatures (such as England). Combining micro-data on neonatal mortality with daily data on temperatures, we find that winter neonatal mortality was extremely high during the first week of life and strongly correlated with external minimum temperature. Through a comparison of these results with other findings in the literature, we suggest that the increase in winter neonatal mortality in Veneto may have principally been caused by the deteriorating physical conditions of mothers, lessening the “quality” of infants who consequently were quite susceptible to cold temperatures.
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