Once Were Farmers: Occupation, Social Mobility, and Mortality During Industrialization in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec 1840-1971

Marc Tremblay, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Hélène Vézina, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Jamie Seabrook, University of Western Ontario

According to the theory of the “fundamental social causes of diseases”, inequalities in socioeconomic status would always lead to gradients in health and mortality favouring the wealthiest. We test this theory with longitudinal data from the 19th – 20th century Saguenay region in Quebec (Canada). The data consist of socio-professional declarations extracted from the vital statistics of the BALSAC database (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi). Results indicate lower mortality among farmers and artisans than among the other occupational categories, both over the occupational life course (until age 60) or in older ages (after age 60). If anything, white-collar workers had the highest mortality of all. The critical factor could be the exposure to toxic environmental conditions that were shared by white collar workers and their employees during the active life stage. Self-selection of frailer individuals into less physically demanding occupations (white collar) could also account for the counterintuitive results.

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Presented in Session 170: Historical and Geographic Perspectives of Socioeconomic Differences in Mortality