Becoming Oldest-Old: Evidence from Historical U.S. Data

Dora L. Costa Joanna N. Lahey

WP#2003-10

Abstract

We use historical data to show that such indicators of insults in early childhood and young adulthood as quarter of birth, residence, occupation, wealth, and the incidence of specific infectious diseases affected older age mortality. We find that the effect of quarter of birth on older age mortality has diminished over the twentieth century, implying improvements in early life environmental factors. We find that up to one-fifth of the increase between 1900 and 1999 in the probability of a 65 year old surviving to age 85 may be attributable to early life conditions.