Child mortality

The 1911 Census for England and Wales asked for the numbers, for each married couple on the form, of 'Total children born alive', 'Children still living', and 'Children who have died'. It also asked the number of years the couple had been married. This was the first time that such a question had been asked, and it reflected the particular concerns of and debates between public health environmentalists and eugenicists at the time. For more information see the essay on "The 1911 Census of Fertility" by Edward Higgs. The two-volume report on fertility was a casualty of the First World War, and through some tables were published in 1915, the second volume of the report and the remainder of the tables did not appear until 1923. They looked in enormous detail at the impact of factors such as the age of husband and wife, the duration of the marriage, and relationship of fertility to age at marriage. The data was broken down by social status, occupation, geography (large and small urban areas, and rural areas), and parents' birthplace. The analysis by social status required the development of a social economic classification that placed households into 'socio-economic groupings' on the basis of the occupation of the male household head with five main groupings, with occupations apportioned to the groupings on the basis of the 'skill' involved in them:
  • Class I Professional, etc., occupations
  • Class II Intermediate occupations
  • Class III Skilled occupations
  • Class IV Partly skilled occupations
  • Class V Unskilled occupations
This was to be the forerunner of the Standard Occupational Classification, which is still in use.

But despite the vast quantity of information which the Fertility Report contains, for most people the most striking information it offers will be that on child mortality. Of the 81 married couples in our area, 25, 31%, had lost one or more children. Out of the 270 births recorded, 41 children, 15%, had died. Seventeen families had lost one child, four had lost two, and three, three (in one case three out of the four born). But the most striking case was that of a couple who had had thirteen children and lost seven of them.