The low mortality of a learned society
Maria E. Winkler-Dworak, Vienna Institute of Demography
This study addresses the mortality of the members of a learned society. Following the social gradient literature of mortality, members of a learned society should exhibit much lower death rates than other social groups. We use biographical records from the members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from 1847-2005 and compare their death rates to average Austrian mortality. Therefore, we derive standardized mortality ratios by using Austrian life table death rates, which are published regularly, as reference rates. Moreover, we refine the mortality comparison by socio-economic variables such as education and occupation. This means, we compare the mortality of the members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences to Austrian life table deaths rates of the population with tertiary education and non-manual workers/civil servants, respectively. We find that the members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences experience far fewer deaths than if they would be subject to the Austrian life table mortality. The mortality differential even persists compared to the Austrian population with tertiary education and to the Austrian non-manual workers/civil servants, though at a smaller extent. Moreover, the mortality differential between the members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Austrian population has widened over time, particularly since the mid of the 20th century. In an international comparative view, we find that the mortality differential between the members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Austrian population is of similar magnitude like those observed for the French “Académie des Sciences” and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences.