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Mortality Consequences of the 1959-1961 Great Leap Forward Famine

Abstract

Using individual retrospective mortality records for three cohorts of newborns (1956- 1958, 1959-1961, and 1962-1964) drawn from a large national fertility survey conducted in 1988 in China, I examined cohort differences in mortality up to age 22, aiming to identify debilitation and selection effects of the 1959-1961 Great Leap Forward Famine. The results revealed the presence of a mortality crossover between ages 11 and 12, when the mortality level of the non-famine cohort caught up to and exceeded the level of the famine cohort. The presence and timing of the mortality crossover suggests that both debilitation and selection effects influenced the post-famine cohort mortality pattern. In addition, the multilevel multiprocess models established a direct connection between frailties for infant mortality and mortality at subsequent ages, thus demonstrating the theoretical inevitability of mortality crossover after famine as the result of the convergence process caused by selection due to frailty.

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