Culture and Demographics: What We Can Learn from Jewish History

Culture and Demographics: What We Can Learn from Jewish History


History can help us to assess the impact of cultural and religious norms on demographic and economic patterns. In Child Care and Human Development: Insights from Jewish History in Central and Eastern Europe, 1500–1930, Maristella Botticini (Department of Economics of Bocconi University, Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Zvi Eckstein (Interdisciplinary Center IDC, Israele) and Anat Vaturi (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) study the case of the Jews in Central and Eastern Europe in pre-modern and modern times.

The total population in the area grew at the annual rate of 0.43 percent from 1500 to 1930. The Jewish population growth rate was almost 1.4. In 1500, Jews were only 0.13 of the total population in the vast geographical area of Poland and Lithuania. By 1880, just before the immigration waves within Europe and to the US, they were over 15 percent. The authors surveyed primary and secondary sources and documented that child care practices rooted in Biblical and Talmudic rulings account for the lower infant and child mortality among Jews. This, in turn, explains about 70 percent of the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish population growth.

Some of these rulings emphasized the importance of breastfeeding the newborn child immediately after birth, they recommended longer breastfeeding duration and the use of one source of breast milk. The use of mechanical contraception was permitted during lactation to preserve the mother’s ability to nurse. Other rulings concerned diet, personal hygiene of mother and newborn, support from the wife’s family.

“Many centuries later, the recent medical research has shown that these rulings and practices actually improve the health and survival of infants and children. They enhance cognitive and non-cognitive skills and account for the lower infant and child mortality among Jews”, Maristella Botticini says. “Two thousand years ago, Judaism enforced education in a world of almost universal illiteracy. It also caused lower infant and child mortality rates, contributing to Jewish economic prosperity and intellectual achievements in Eastern and Central Europe in the early modern and modern times”.

Read more about this topic:
Tracking the Arrow of Time to Understand the Present. By Guido Alfani
Giuseppe Berta. From Henry Ford to Steve Jobs: The (French) Evolution of Entrepreneurship
Andrea Colli. How, When and Why the Benetton Family Became Edizione Ltd
Manuela Geranio. Modern Public Limited Companies? They Started in Rome
Beatrice Manzoni. Wonderful Building, Woeful Planning in Edinburgh
Elisabetta Merlo. Corporate Heritage: A Competitive Advantage for Companies
Mara Squicciarini. How Important Are School Curricula for a Country’s Development? Very
Guido Tabellini. From Florence to San Francisco: Good Institutions Attract Creative People
Tamas Vonyo. The Myth of the Marshall Plan and Its Effects on Growth
The Ricordi Archives and the Value of Memory. Interview with Pierluigi Ledda

by Claudio Todesco


All News
  • COVID: The Multifaceted Truth in the Case of Lombardy

    A strand of research by Alessia Melegaro aims to reconstruct the early stages of the epidemic and the reasons why it hit the region so hard  

  • Quantum Physics and Statistical Physics for Machine Learning Meet at Bocconi

    In the early days of next week the University will virtually host 300 participants of the ELLIS Workshop on Quantum and Physics Based Machine Learning  


  July 2020  
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    


All Seminars
  • Il regolamento europeo sui prospetti informativi
    Business law

    Welcome Address Piergaetano Marchetti, Università Bocconi   Coordinator Giovanni Strampelli, Università Bocconi   Introduction Guido Ferrarini, Università di Genova   Speakers Danny Busch, Radboud University, Nijmegen;   Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano;   Paolo Giudici, Libera Università di Bolzano;   Michele Siri, Università di Genova   Conclusions Marco Ventoruzzo, Università Bocconi


  • Oh, What an UnTangled Web We Weave: The Abnormal Structure of Illegal Digital Marketplace Communities

    JOHN HULLAND, University of Georgia