[Research Seminar] IFLAME: “Elites versus non-elites – Towards a deeper understanding of mortality patterns in family trees” R. STELTER – University of Basel

Speakers: Robert STELTER
University of Basel

Date and Location – Thursday September 16th 2021 from 12:00 to 13:30 on Zoom



With the big data revolution genealogical data came up as a valuable source to study historical population dynamics. We investigate whether mortality dynamics of males in the family trees of familinx characterize the general male population or elites reputed to have lower mortality than the general population. Relying on data for the German Empire with a relatively low coverage and the Netherlands with a high coverage in familinx, we evidence that at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century:

I. life expectancy and life disparity is closer to the knowledge elite than to the general population.

II. the distance between mortality patterns in familinx and official life tables is higher in the German population with the lower coverage.

III. similarities between the elite’s and familinx’ life expectancy already existed long before the nineteenth century.

We conclude that elites with their potentially lower mortality are clearly over-represented in family trees. Emerging digital data have the potential to revolutionize our knowledge of historical demographic dynamics – once we learn to recognize their potential and limitations.