Spatial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Dimensions of Nineteenth Century Mortality: Philadelphia, 1880

Gretchen A. Condran, Temple University

Public Health Officials in Nineteenth Century cities linked ethnicity, immigrant status, poverty and mortality spatially—areal units inhabited by African-Americans and/or immigrants were seen as sites of both poverty and disease. I have examined how closely the mortality of an ethnic group was tied to its residential location and found that in Philadelphia in1880, ethnic group members living in areas that had a large concentration of their own group faced better mortality conditions than those living elsewhere in the city. Higher occupational status in ethnic areas may account for some of the spatial difference in life chances for African-Americans. However, other status characteristics of areas do not correlate with the mortality levels for African-Americans, and for the Irish and German populations, spatial mortality differences were not related to any measure of status. These results question both Nineteenth Century notions about urban mortality and our current views of our immigrant past.

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Presented in Session 80: Racial and Ethnic Differentials in Nineteenth Century Demographic Behavior