April 16, 2019 | News | Suessmilch Lecture

Life after death: The scale and salience of mortality exposure in sub-Saharan Africa

On April 23, 2019, Emily Smith-Greenaway from the University of Southern California, gave a lecture about scale and salience of mortality exposure in sub-Saharan Africa.


Dramatic reductions in the infant and under-five mortality rate over the last half century are among the global health community’s most notable achievements. The trends are clear and the message is positive: the world today is healthier and safer for young people than it has ever been. Sub-Saharan African countries, in particular, have experienced some of the most dramatic reductions in early life mortality. However, the all-time low infant and under-five mortality rates conceal the pervasiveness by which contemporary populations experience the phenomenon of having a young child die—a life event that may leave parents vulnerable in myriad ways. In this talk, I will introduce systematic measures that capture the scale at which infant and child deaths are experienced by and dispersed across mothers in contemporary African populations. I will then demonstrate how a child's death can act as a precursor to women's further disadvantage, and will conclude by discussing planned research supported by a Max Planck Sabbatical Award.

© Photo: Brendan Greenaway

About the Speaker

Emily Smith-Greenaway, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences at the University of Southern California.

Smith-Greenaway studies how social inequalities at the family and community level influence individual well-being. She is particularly interested in exploring how literacy skills influence individual’s own health and that of their children. She has utilized both primary and secondary data to demonstrate a link between literacy and health, and has drawn from multiple disciplines to highlight the increasing need to incorporate literacy into demographic research. Thus far, her multinational research has focused primarily on sub-Saharan Africa. She’s on leave this academic year (2018-19), part of which she will spend at the MPIDR thanks to a Max Planck Sabbatical Award.

Time and Venue

Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at the Institute's Auditorium


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.