US life expectancy in the 1800s: Life spans in large cities during the Victorian era

Among the curious things shown by the census of 1880 are the new data relative to the expectancy of life.

US life expectancy

Some interesting facts gleaned from the US Census reports.

It appears from the statistics derived from the combined experience of thirty American life insurance companies, that at the age of ten years the expectation of life of a healthy white male is 49.99 years. In Massachusetts, however (outside of Boston), this period of expectation is increased to 51.01 years, while in Boston itself it is reduced to 47.49 years.

New Jersey makes a better showing than Massachusetts, the expectation in that State being 51.57, which would seem to show that mosquitoes do not necessarily tend to abbreviate life, notwithstanding they may make it undesirable.

The expectation of life of the aforesaid ten-year-old child in the various principal cities is as follows: Washington (or rather the whole District of Columbia), 47.05 years; New York, 44.92; Brooklyn, 48.09; Philadelphia, 46.96; Baltimore, 48.50; Cincinnati, 47.96; Chicago. 50.61; St. Louis, 48.25; San Francisco, 42.69; Charleston, SC 41.84; New Orleans, 40.09.

New York City in the 1880s - Victorian era NYC US life expectancy

Actuarial life tables from 1880: US life expectancy

Now let us take the other extreme of life. According to the experience of the insurance companies already referred to, the white male who reaches the age of eighty-five has still 3.40 years to live.

In the several places named above, the expectation at age eighty-five is respectively as follows: Massachusetts, 5.82; New Jersey, 6.26; District of Columbia, 5. 26; Boston, 6.57; New York, 5.69. Brooklyn, 5.53; Philadelphia, 5.39; Baltimore, 6.17; Charleston, 5.18; New Orleans, 5.25; Cincinnati, 5.82; Chicago, 5.84; St. Louis, 8.65; San Francisco, 7.96.

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It will be seen; that, with the exception of Chicago, the child’s chances of attaining the average of expectancy are against him in the cities, while the old man who has become toughened to city luxuries, and has learned how to exist without ozone, will do best to remain where he is if he desires to reach the maximum of age.

This is especially true of New Orleans, where the ten-year-old loses twenty percent of expectancy, whereas if he succeed in weathering the storms of early and middle life and reach the age of eighty-five in the Cresent City, he is given a compensating allowance of fifty-five percent over the average of expectancy.

The census figures gives a longer expectation in every case at age eighty-five than Meeck’s mortality tables, even colored persons are given longer expectations at advanced ages than the standard tables, and they would seem to show that there is an increasing tendency toward longevity in the country.

Long life is especially granted to the inhabitants of St. Louis and of San Francisco. In the latter case, the “glorious climate” is satisfactorily vindicated.

The salubrity of St. Louis will probably be attributed by its rival city of Chicago to its uncrowded bucolic condition. – Boston Transcript

The Chicago Building of The Home Insurance Co. of New York 1880 - US life expectancy


About this story

Source publication: The Lawrence Daily Journal (Lawrence, Kansas)

Source publication date: October 1, 1887

Notes: Herald's Page for Women Readers (Column)

Filed under: 1880s, Culture & lifestyle, Health & medicine, Newspapers

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