Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 263–303 | Cite as

The longevity of famous people from Hammurabi to Einstein

Article

Abstract

We build a new sample of 300,000 famous people born between Hammurabi’s epoch and Einstein’s cohort, including their vital dates, occupations, and locations from the Index Bio-bibliographicus Notorum Hominum. We discuss and control for selection and composition biases. We show using this long-running consistent database that there was no trend in mortality during most of human history, confirming the existence of a Malthusian epoch; we date the beginning of the steady improvements in longevity to the cohort born in 1640–1649, clearly preceding the Industrial Revolution, lending credence to the hypothesis that human capital may have played a significant role in the take-off to modern growth; we find that this timing of improvements in longevity concerns most countries in Europe and most skilled occupations.

Keywords

Longevity Notoriety Malthus Elite Compensation effect of mortality Enlightenment Europe 

JEL Classification

J11 I12 N30 I20 J24 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (pdf 287 KB)
10887_2015_9117_MOESM2_ESM.zip (111.3 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (zip 113987 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRES and COREUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  2. 2.IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSEBarcelonaSpain

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