The Jewish advantage and household security: life expectancy among 19th Century Sephardim of Gibraltar

Econ Hum Biol. 2013 Jul;11(3):360-70. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2012.02.006. Epub 2012 May 19.


Using the historical population of Gibraltar to examine the pattern of mortality of Jews and Roman Catholics revealed that: (1) the Jews exhibited a significantly better health status as measured by life expectancy at birth (47.66 and 47.56 for Jewish males and females vs. 38.10 and 40.89 for Catholics males and females, respectively), (2) most of the disparity is found in the very young age categories and (3) the significantly lower rates of deaths could be attributed to the diarrheal and nutritional complex. Stage two of the research involved the linkage of deaths over a 7-year period relative to their household context as of 1878. Being Jewish, having a servant, having access to a water well in the tenement and residing in a tenement only with other Jews, were all factors that contributed to a higher life expectancy. Our explanation for the enhanced survivorship among the Jews is grounded in economics as well as in an established welfare system, in religious precepts and in secular knowledge of health. One of the more notable and hitherto unobserved findings is that Roman Catholics residing in the same tenements with Jews enjoyed a distinct health advantage. This suggests that a positive amplification effect arose from their co-residence with the Jews.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Catholicism / history
  • Female
  • Gibraltar / epidemiology
  • Health Status
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Jews / history*
  • Life Expectancy / ethnology
  • Life Expectancy / history*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Residence Characteristics / history*
  • Young Adult