Journal Article

Mortality transition in the interwar Baltic states: findings from cross-country comparison of new life tables

Norkus, Z., Jasilionis, D., Grytten , O. H., Mežs , I., Klesment, M.
Scandinavian Economic History Review (2022)

Abstract

This paper is the first comparative analysis of mortality transition, as part of the demographic transition, in all the three Baltic countries during the interwar period. We address the following research questions: Which type of mortality transition is exemplified by the interwar Baltic countries' mortality patterns? Was the mortality transition completed already before WWII? What were Baltic cross-country differences in the advancement of mortality and demographic transitions? We present and use newly constructed life tables for Lithuania, 1925-1934, and draw on the work of the Estonian demographer Kalev Katus (1955-2008), publishing for the first time his life tables for Latvia in 1925-1938. Main findings: The three countries were part of the Western model of mortality transition. However, the reduction of infant and childhood mortality was lagging in Lithuania. Women of childbearing age in Estonia and mainland Latvia, as a result of earlier fertility decline, experienced longer life expectancy due to the decreased mortality from birth complications. Nevertheless, in all three countries mortality transition was still incomplete by WWII. A comparison of death causes in 1925-1939 serves to corroborate the last conclusion.

Keywords: Baltic Countries, historical demography, life tables
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.