First signs of transition: the parallel decline of early baptism and early mortality in the province of Padua (North East Italy) 1816-1870

Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, Università di Padova
Guido Alfani, Università Bocconi
Alessandra Minello, European University Institute

We analyse the parallel decline of early baptism and early death in eleven parishes in the province of Padua (North-East Italy) from 1816 to 1870, using a new individual nominative linked database of 33,000 births and 10,000 deaths during the first three months of life. The statistical connection is clear and strong: those social groups and those areas experiencing the most intense decline in early baptism were also those in which mortality during the first three months of life (and mainly during the first weeks) declined more. Life-tables and regression models show that during the cold winter of the plan of Veneto, early baptism increased the risk of death dramatically. However, the connection between early baptism and the risk of early death persisted also during the summer, when the exposure to low temperature could not influence the risk of death, and a sort of reverse effect could prevail (children in periculo mortis were immediately baptized). Finally, a two-level logistic regression – where the children born to the same couple are clustered – increases markedly the statistical performance of the individual model, suggesting the importance of unmeasured couple behaviours in influencing both early baptism and early death.

Presented in Session 95: Trends and impact of infant/child mortality in the past