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The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure

Department of Geography and Faculty of History


Housing, mobility and the measurement of child health from the 1911 Irish census

Housing, mobility and the measurement of child health from the 1911 Irish census

This project investigates short-term residential mobility in an Edwardian industrial city, examines the influences in infant and child mortality in this context and considers the validity of trying to measure the impact of cross-sectionally measured characteristics, such as housing, on infant mortality measured using the retrospective census questions in the 1911 census on ‘children ever born’ and ‘children surviving’. It is suspected that using time-specific data with longitudinal data creates biases in certain dimensions of the health-housing relationship and the study hopes to identify the nature and extent of these and, accounting for them, to re-assess current knowledge.

Short-term residential persistence is measured over a ten year intercensal period bounded by the 1901 and 1911 census, with fine calibration enabled by the linking of households using street directories for 1901, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908 and 1910. Infant and young child mortality is estimated according to various characteristics using the demographic techniques of indirect estimation.

It is generally accepted that further scientific progress on the causes of infant mortality differentials will require much more high-resolution work using individual-level data in combination with contextualised, detailed information. Historical research of this kind is now feasible with the release of the 1911 census data, but before such research can profitably proceed the dimensions of the methodological problem must be carefully evaluated. This project undertakes this task while considering the influence of housing conditions in Belfast during the decade before the 1911 census, thus generating original methodological findings with important general implications for subsequent researchers.