Occupation and family networks at old age, Västerbotten 1890-1960

Lilla salen Session 3: The long road to the welfare state… and beyond: retirement, old-age provision and eldercare in the past and present organized by Jaco Zuijderduijn and Tobias Karlsson


Dennis Fahlgren


Due to declining working capacity at old age, individuals have throughout history assured against loss of income through family networks, life-cycle savings and or public welfare. As part of my thesis, this paper addresses declining work capacity by examining old-age assurance strategies in the County of Västerbotten between 1890-1960. More specifically, I focus on the assurance through market relations (including labour-wage and occupational pensions)family networks, and the public sector (including social security and poor relief).

The period of study includes major structural and institutional changes expected to have altered individual’s assurance strategies, such as the introduction of compulsory public pensions. In theory, the expansion of pensions may have down-played dependency on labour income and family network at higher ages. This paper examines the elderly’s occupations, and how family networks varied in relation occupation and SES.

The empirical setting is the county of Västerbotten in the northern Sweden, which underwent a rapid industrial development, mainly in the forestry sector, as well as changing migration patterns during the period of study. Due to digitalization of church records (POPLINK-database), it is possible to conduct longitudinal analysis of all individuals living in the area. The database contains data on occupation, number of- and proximity to adult children, marital status and if the individual receives support from the poor house or municipal old age home. Based on data from the database, this paper provides descriptive statistics of the elderly’s occupations and family networks, in the rural and urban settings of Västerbotten between 1890 and 1955.


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