Tim Riswick

PhD Project

Between Rivalry and Support. Differences in the Mortality Chances of Brothers and Sisters in Taiwan and the Netherlands, 1860-1945.

During the last decade, studies investigating the influence of siblings through birth rank, position within the family and sibship size have underscored their importance in demographic processes and outcomes in historical times. This PhD-project aims to fill the gap in historical mortality research by focusing on the influence of the number of siblings on mortality chances of children under the age of five from a comparative approach. Because the way in which humans organise families varies around the globe, the overall picture of the human family is one of flexibility between and within populations. Moreover, this affects the way in which family members cooperate or compete with each other. Thus, this PhD-project investigates inequality in life chances by examining the diverse roles siblings may play within households in Taiwan and the Netherlands during the period 1860-1940.

Population and household registers are used because these sources record the presence or absence of siblings in a household at a particular point in an individual’s life. The theoretical framework of household systems will be used to expand our understanding of inequality in life chances by including the distinctive features, such as marriage structures, parental power and household organisation, of both Western European and Asian households. Moreover, regional variation will also be taken into account by looking at possible differences within the Netherlands and Taiwan. By doing so, it will become possible to include regional variation and to test if differences regarding sibling influences are minor within both societies compared to the differences between them. To analyse all datasets, methods appropriate for the statistical analysis of quantitative life course data will be used. Event history techniques, such as Cox proportional hazard models, can analyze mortality in the life courses of Taiwanese and Dutch siblings, while multilevel (event history) or frailty models are applied to compensate for clustered sibling data.