Linking Kin Networks and Mortality in the Context of the U.S. Demographic Transition

Jessica Polos , University of Wisconsin-Madison

Increasing longevity and reduced fertility have led to extended kin networks with more living vertical ties (e.g. grandparents) and fewer living horizontal ties (e.g. siblings) than in the past. Yet how kinship networks change over time and link to mortality patterns has been dramatically understudied in high-income countries. In this paper, I use a novel genealogical data set containing 2 million individuals to trace changes in kinship network sizes and kin relation types (i.e. great-grandparents and cousins) and their influence on infant mortality across the U.S. demographic transition from 1750-1950. I describe kin relations alive in the year of birth for 10-year cohorts as the demographic transition unfolds. Then, I extend the literature linking kin support to infant mortality by examining the influence of more extended vertical ties (i.e. aunts, uncles, great-grandparents) as well as nuclear and extended horizontal ties (i.e. siblings and cousins) on infant mortality over time.

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 Presented in Session 38. Intergenerational Processes in Population Health