Volume 36 - Article 33 | Pages 945–988

The decline of infant and child mortality among Spanish Gitanos or Calé (1871−2005): A microdemographic study in Andalusia

By Juan F. Gamella, Elisa Martín Carrasco-Muñoz

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Date received:30 Jun 2016
Date published:28 Mar 2017
Word count:12596
Keywords:anthropological demography, childhood mortality, demographic transition, ethnic minorities, family reconstitution, historical demography, infant mortality, Roma, Spain


Background: Most Romani groups in Europe have experienced a decline in childhood mortality during recent decades. These crucial transformations are rarely addressed in research or public policy.

Objective: This paper analyzes the timing and structure of the decline of childhood mortality among the Gitano people of Spain.

Methods: The paper is based on the family and genealogy reconstitution of the Gitano population of 22 contiguous localities in Southern Spain. Registry data from over 19,100 people and 3,501 reconstituted families was included in a dense genealogical grid ranging over 150 years. From this database we produced annual time series of infant and child mortality and of the registered causes of death from 1871 to 2005.

Results: The analyzed data shows a rapid decline in infant and child mortality from about 1949 to 1970. The onset of the definitive decline occurred in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Child mortality was higher in the pre-transitional period and started to decline earlier, although it took longer to converge with majority rates. The mortality transition in the Gitano minority paralleled that of the dominant majority, but with important delays and higher mortality rates. The causes of death show the deprivation suffered by Gitano people.

Conclusions: The childhood mortality decline facilitated the most important changes experienced recently by the Gitano minority, including its fertility transition and the transformation of Gitanos’ gender and family systems.

Contribution: This is one of the first historical reconstructions of the mortality transition of a Romani population.

Author's Affiliation

Juan F. Gamella - Universidad de Granada, Spain [Email]
Elisa Martín Carrasco-Muñoz - Universidad de Granada, Spain

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