"Cultural factors eclipsed economic status as factors that influenced infant death rates," says Thornton. "Even though most French and Irish Catholics lived in similar working class conditions, the positive effects of later marriage and longer breastfeeding among Irish Catholics protected their infants and children, while French Canadians' infants were negatively impacted by early weaning."
According to the study, French Canadian women were weaning earlier, having more children and waiting less time between babies. What's more, French Canadian infants who survived their first year were more likely to suffer from bouts of intestinal diarrhea that could render them more vulnerable to common childhood illnesses.
Poverty and disease
Economic status, environmental conditions and neighbourhood characteristics all had an impact on newborns' and children's health and lifespan. High population density and crowded conditions helped the spread of contagious diseases and along with the presence of horses, and their impact on sanitation, all played a role in health, too.
"While French Canadian children bore a disproportionate share of urban deaths," says Thornton, "those who reached the age of 10 were as likely to survive as others and much more likely to survive than Irish Catholic men."
"The exceptional quality of records in Montreal provides a rare opportunity to study a North American metropolis in 1881, and to demonstrate the effects of poverty on infant and child mortality, as well as mortality over a lifetime," says Olson, noting, Montreal is one of few industrial cities where high-quality registration permits the examination of mortality with respect to a wide range of social and environmental factors.
"In the city of Montreal in 1881, the presence of three
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