Discussion Paper no. 05-04


Fertility patterns may be useful markers for rates of biological aging. Based on evolutionary and socio-demographic approaches to historical data from the population of Québec (taken from the Registre de population du Québec ancien at the University of Montreal), we examine the effects of reproduction on longevity. Using Cox hazard models on about 2,000 couples married in the colony before 1740, we show that women bearing their last child late in life had longer post-reproductive lives, suggesting that late menopause is associated with an overall slower rate of aging. Increased parity had an opposite, detrimental effect on women’s post-reproductive survival. On the other hand, husband’s longevity was less sensitive to parity and reproductive history. For husbands increased effective family size (EFS; the number of children who survived up to age 18) in a “compressed” reproductive time-span meant higher chances for survival past age 60. Children may serve as strong economical assets on farmstead during colonization, which would mostly benefit fathers. In a collaborative effort to unveil post-reproductive aging patterns in historical populations, the results are compared to previous analyses conducted on the Utah population database and evolutionary and socio-demographic theories addressed in light of the results.