The Association Between Network Centrality and Standard of Living in a Historical Agrarian Population

Document Type


Publication Date





Objective: The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between network centrality and living standards as measured by fertility and mortality responses to short-term economic stress. Methods: Cox proportional hazard models estimate the effects of staple grain price variation and eigenvector and beta centrality within marriage and labor networks on the timing of births and child mortality (1-14 years) in a historical demographic data set from North Orkney, Scotland, 1851-1911. Results: Households that are peripheral to the marriage and labor network experience lower chances of a birth when food prices are high. The fertility of more central households is less sensitive to price changes. A similar, but weaker, pattern holds for child mortality, which is also sensitive to price fluctuations, although the social gradient is not as clear. Conclusions: Marriage and labor network centrality is an indicator of standard of living in this remote, agricultural population. Households that are firmly embedded in the network are able to overcome and adjust to short-term economic stress without demographic consequences, while those at the edges of the community experience delayed reproduction in poor years consistent with unplanned responses to stress.



Terms of Use

This article is made available under the Scholars Archive Terms of Use.