The Effects of 'Improvements' in the Water Supply on the Mortality of Cities at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Gretchen A. Condran, Temple University
Rose Cheney, University of Pennsylvania
Harold Lentzner, Independent Researcher

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, changes in the water supplied to cities were undertaken to lower urban mortality. Previous studies have linked sanitation interventions to mortality decline, however, the measures relating to water supplies have often been quite general and the link to mortality more speculative than empirically established. In this paper we examine the changes in water supplies in New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Chicago in detail and relate the changing water supplies to changes in mortality from specific causes of death, including: typhoid fever, the cause of death most consistently linked to the condition of the water supply; other diseases considered to have been water-borne; and the seasonal pattern of mortality among both children and adults. Our analysis focuses on comparisons both across cities and across areal units within cities that had different strategies and timing of interventions.

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Presented in Session 58: Population, Environment, and Health