D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

The Popular science monthly (Volume 19) online

. (page 79 of 110)
Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 79 of 110)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

transmission. Our organization permits us to write with equal facility
from the top down, from right to left, from left to right ; no physiologi-
cal condition has compelled us to choose a particular direction. If we
elect a determined order and drop the others, it is because we have
learned to do so from our ancestors ; and this order has been imposed
on our ancestors in consequence of different external circumstances.



WITH the year 1839 a new phase is reached in the first effort
to tabulate the actual experience of insurance companies.
Heretofore the average life of towns had furnished the data for mor-
lality tables ; now a table was to be deduced from observations of
insured lives. Seventeen leading offices appointed a committee, to
whom copies of their records were to be intrusted, which, owing to
jealousies, were not as perfect as desirable. In 1843, after years of
labor, a table was published, now known as " Actuaries' Experience Ta-
ble No. 1." It was based on 18,282 policies, of which 7,372 had been
discontinued, 4,786 had terminated by death, and 6,124 were still in
force. The average duration of the policies under observation was
eight and a half years.

vor.. ,\ix. — 40


In 1869 a table taking a far wider range was compiled, known as
"Actuaries' Experience Table No. 2." It comprised the experience of
twenty English and Scotch offices, all over twenty years old. It treats
of 146,847 lives, which on an average had been under observation for
ten years, and records 23,856 deaths. This table was not graduated
until recently, and is only beginning to come into use.

About the same time Mr. Sheppard Homans published the "Ameri-
can Experience Table," based principally on twenty-six years' experi-
ence of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. For the
very young and old ages where the data were insufficient, he also made
use of other American and English statistics. This table has been
adopted as the official standard for New York and many other States.

The exact numbers and other details that served as a foundation
for all these mortality tables have been given rather fully, at the risk
of wearying the reader. The object has been to indicate the difficul-
ties of obtaining them in a reliable and sufficient form, and on such a
scale as to furnish trustworthy averages.

A little reflection will show that large numbers must be observed
for a long term of years, to have deaths occur for every single year of
life, and in the proper proportion for each age. Take as an illustra-
tion the Carlisle table based upon 1,840 deaths in^eight years, which
would average 230 deaths per year. According to the present mor-
tality of England, about forty per cent, of the deaths of the whole
population occur among children under five years old, forty per cent,
between the ages of five and sixty-five, and twenty-per cent, in old
age, between sixty-five and one hundred years. Apply these percent-
ages to the 230 deaths at Carlisle, and they would give 92 persons
dying under five years old, 92 between five and sixty-five years, and
46 between sixty-five and one hundred years of age. For the last
thirty-five years of life only 46 deaths would be likely to take place,
because, while the percentage of mortality is high, the number living
at those ages is very small. But, when 46 deaths are distributed
among thirty-five years of life, it is apparent that they are not likely
to prove regularly divided among them. At some ages, and they may
be the very highest, no deaths at all may occur. We know, however,
that it is not in the course of nature that in any one year of life no
human being should die, and properly ascribe it to the small number
and the short space of time observed. Here the mathematician steps
in and determines, from the insufficient data gathered, what the prob-
able percentage of deaths would be for every year of life, in large
communities living under similar conditions.

In illustration of what has been said, and as both interesting and
instructive, the actual percentage of deaths comprised under the " Un-
graduated Actuaries' Experience Table No, 2 " is herewith given in
graphic representation :

The table shows the remarkable fact that, out of so large a number



as 23,800 deaths, not a single individual died at ages eleven, sixteen,
and ninety-four. This is due to the insufficient number of persons
insured under twenty years, and the very small number living above

ninety years of age. The other most apparent fluctuations are a fall
at age eighty-nine and a sudden rise at ages ninety-two and ninety-
three. Here, again, for the same reasons, a very few deaths above or
'clow the average cause large differences in the percentage. But


more or less deviation was experienced for almost every year of life,
although the small scale to which the representation is necessarily con-
fined does not clearly indicate it. The most superficial examination,
however, must convince us that we are not dealing with accidents,
but with a clearly pronounced tendency in the rate of mortality, dis-
turbed only by minor causes.

Leaving for the time life-insurance experience, for the wider field
of vital statistics generally, we have to note a most important step, in
the introduction of the decennial census in England in 1801, and the
adoption of a system of registering deaths, births, and marriages, be-
gun in 1836.

The data were thus collected for constructing a mortality table,
embracing the whole population of England. This task was under-
taken by the Assistant Registrar-General, Dr. Farr, on the census of
1841, and is known as " English Life Table No. 1." It is based on
about 1 0,000,000 lives and 344,000 deaths. In 1863 he published a sec-
ond table called " English Life Table No. 2," using the data of the
census of 1841 and extending the deaths to three years previous to
and three years subsequent to 1841. This period of seven years (1838
to 1844) furnished 2,430,648 deaths. Finally, in 1804, " English Life
Table No. 3 " was given to the public in the form of a distinct work.
It was deduced from the two censuses of 1841 and 1851, and other
records for the seventeen years from 1838 to 1854, embracing some
50,000,000 persons living and 0,470,000 deaths. Here, at length, we
have a life-table on the largest scale, comprising the population of a
whole country from birth upward. A graphic representation of the
same is herewith presented, as that conveys a clearer picture to the
mind than the reading of the numbers of the living and dying for
every age.

On comparing Life Table No. 3 from ten years upward with the
■ Ungraduated Actuaries' Experience Table No. 2," it will be observed
that the direction of the curve is very similar in both ; but, while the
one is absolutely smooth and even, the other is disturbed by the more
or less violent deviations already referred to. The process of remov-
ing these unevennesses in the line, actuaries call graduating or adjust-
ing. It is a very delicate and most important problem, for it involves
no less than the effort to determine the law of mortality, freed from
the accidental influences w^hich experience has recorded. The outline
of this law is, indeed, clearly defined, and can be traced in every
table — a high rate of mortality in the first year of life, decreasing
until the minimum is reached somewhere near the age of puberty, then
rising very gradually, until with old age a very rapid increase takes
l)lace. But, while these general traits are well establislied, the details
are subject to continual deviations.

We must assume that there is a fundamental law of life accom-
panying the organization of the human being, but that it is fre-



quently traversed by many artificial and accidental influences. To
determine the normal and eliminate the accidental conditions is th*;'
aim of theoretical inquiry. On the other hand, it may be urged that
there is no normal standard of life nor of its surroundings, and that



length of life is merely an expression of the sum total of social influ-
ences upon the organism. A community may be divided into ever
so many groups, each of which will have its peculiarity, and the
summary of all these units will give as resultant the average of life.
Every graduated mortality table may, therefore, be considered only
an approximate expression of the death-rate under the conditions and
at the time of observation.

We may now follow "English Life Table No. 3" more in detail.
It gives a separate record of both male and female life, and we may
examine the mortality of males first.

The notation adopted refers to the percentage of death in the cur-
rent year ; meaning from bii'th to end of first year, 1 from begin-
ning to end of second year of life, and so on :


of deaths.




of deaths. 1


of deaths. |


of deaths.


! -62 ■






1 ^83 1


1-54 1






1-88 ;








34 21


1-13 \





The table ends with age 107.

Taking birth as a startinir-point. the mortality for the first 5 yeai-s of life is 27*64 per cent
« " " 10 " " 31-02

" " " 20 " " 34-82

" 44^ " " 50-00

The rate of mortality of age 5 is again reached at about age 11

" 1 " " " " 70

"0 " " " " 82

4-i of all children born will reach ase 70

10 •• 78

100 • ■ 90

About 1 in
'• 1 "
" 1

Let us now compare male and female mortality. There are born
511,745 males to 488,255 females, being an excess of 23,490 males —
4'81 per cent.

I»:iring age 0, the deaths are 83,710 males to 65,774 females: leaving males

in excess 1-31 per cent.

At " 8 the excess of males living is 100 *'

" "15 " " " 1-18 "

" "37 " " " 208

" "50 " " " 93

" "53 the sexes arc about even in number.

" " 70 the excess of Jannlcs living is 8-00 . "

" "80 " " " 19-00

" " 90 " " '• 41.00

End of table for male life is 107 years, for female life is 108 years.

Equation of " " 44^ " of " " 46| "

Of males living at age 20, about 1 in 3 will reach 70 years, of females 1 in 2J.
u « u u u 1 " s ii '■ 80 " '• I " 6f.

" " " '■ " 1 " 70 " " 90 " " 1 " 49.


Thus it appears that, with the exception of the period from fifteen
to thirty-seven, where the larger mortality can be easily explained on
physiological grounds, females have a far better chance of life than
males. This is particularly marked in the first year of life, and after
tifty-three years of age.

Some of the results deduced from this table will no doubt surprise
many. It is not commonly assumed that age thirteen is the healthiest
in life, or that so large a proportion of infants will reach as high an
age as is here indicated. Nor is it generally known that more boys
are born than girls, and that the weaker sex has such decided advan-
tages in life over the stronger. But, while nearly five per cent, more
male than female infants are born, the very reverse appears in the
whole population, there being about five per cent, more females living
than males. Of course, these proportions refer to England only, and
they vary in different countries, according to conditions and influences
that the reader can readily picture to himself.

English Lif:i Table Xo. 3 marks an epoch in statistical science, and
the results obtained are valuable and sufficiently reliable for prac-
tical purposes, but much yet remains to be done to satisfy scientific
inquiry. An annual census, which is strongly urged, would allow a
closer and more frequent examination of facts, and reduce mathemati-
cal speculation to a minimum.

One question of grave importance can not yet be considered as
definitively settled ; it is whether the rate of mortality is steadily de-
clining, and the duration of life is correspondingly extending. In a
general way, and as compared with former centuries, there can be no
tloubt that a marked improvement is to be found. Take the popula-
tion of England as an illustration :

It was estimated in 1651 at 5.450,000

" " 1751 at 6,400,000

Census of ISOl at 8,892,536

1S51 at 17,927,009

This shows an increase of seventeen and a half per cent, for the
century from 1651 to 1751, of thirty-nine per cent, for the fifty years
to 1801, and of one hundred and one and a half per cent, for fifty
years to 1851.

These rapid strides are not astonishing when we consider the epi-
demics, the internal strife, the famines, and insufficient means of com-
munication, the disorderly and unsettled habits of former times, and
compare them with the better hygiene, the greater comforts, and the
■jfoncrally refining influences of the present. But this increasing ratio
if growth may be due either to a larger percentage of births, or to a
smaller proportion of deaths, or to both causes combined. Statistics
■icem to indicate that both factors are even now contributing to this
result. In 1841, out of 1,000 of the population, 15-4 were married dur-


ing the year, and in 1876 the number had gradually risen to 17 per
1,000. So that, in spite of large cities and the greater difficulty of
supporting families, the growing tendency to settled and more regular
habits is exhibited in the larger number of marriages. The result is
an increasing number of births in proportion to the population. In
1841, 512,158 children were born, being 32-2 per 1,000, while in 187(5
the number was 887,464, or 36"6 per 1,000, which is an increase of
about twenty-five per cent. The deaths, on the other hand, remained
nearly stationary, being 21-6 per 1,000 in 1841 to 21-9 in 1876. The
ratio of deaths to births, therefore, stood as 1 to 1*49 in 1841, while in
1876 it was as 1 to 1-74.

The preponderance of young families, however, ought to make the
death-rate very much higher, as the mortality at the young ages is very
large. Since it remained nearly unchanged, while the marriages and
births increased, it would indicate that the average duration of life
was being extended. For special localities like large cities, it is well
known that sanitary measures and other causes are producing constant
improvement ; but there are many counteracting conditions to be con-
sidered. With an improved system of registration and more frequent
enumerations of the people, data will be obtained for computing and
comparing life tables at shorter intervals, and there can be no doubt
that, in spite of increasing difficulties, the beneficial influences of
higher civilization will be found to tend to a steady prolongation of
human life.

Recurring after this digression to the experience of life-insurance
companies, we will compare English Life Table No. 3 from twenty
years upward with the two tables most m use, the Actuaries' Experi-
ence Table No. 1 and the American Experience Table. The percent-
ages are given, in preference to the number of living and dying for
each period :



actuaries' EXPEKl-


Percentage of deaths.

Percentage of deaths.

Percentage of deaths.







1 54




4 59












1 22




















50 ....


55. . .



2 67



70. .








107.. .


While the two experience tables are very similar, and represent
about the same social conditions, the well-to-do middle classes, in this
country and in England, the American table has a peculiarity char-
acteristic of life in the United States. At the younger ages, up to
thirty years, the mortality is greater, while from thirty to seventy
years it is somewhat less than in England. During this latter, the
most active period of life, the sti-ain upon the system is very great in
this country, and the vital forces are used up to such an extent that
after seventy years the death-rate rises rapidly. The table ends at
ninety-five, while the English is carried to ninety-nine. It may also
be mentioned here that female life has proved less favorable than
male life to insurance companies, while it will be remembered that the
very reverse has been observed in the community at large. The next
point that will attract attention is, that the English life table, repre-
senting the average life of the whole population, does not range so
much above the insurance tables as might be supposed. Insurance
companies select only healthy individuals by medical examination, and
almost exclusively from the better classes and occupations. Why,
then, is the difference not greater? Some of the reasons can be
readily given. First, there is a constant effort on the part of the pub-
lic to foist impaired lives upon the insurers. No amount of care or
precaution can detect all misrepresentation or trace every inducement
to fraud and self-destruction, and, while it may amount to less than
some assume, it undoubtedly reduces the standard of absolute health.
Of far greater importance is the observation that the effect of selec-
tion nearly wears away in about five years. Taking a class of lives
selected by medical examination, say at twenty-five years, it will show
a reduced mortality during the first year ; but after five years, at age
thirty, very nearly the usual average is again reached. For, while the
diseased are excluded from the selected class, a certain number of these
sound lives will find their health to fail from year to year. Were
those admitted at twenty-five years to be reexamined at age thirty,
so laany sick and ailing would be among them that the advantages of
selection would be found to have largely disappeared.

Registrar - General Farr estimates 27 out of 1,000 of the whole
population, between the ages of twenty and sixty, to suffer from some
kind of disease or other, be it hereditary, chronic, recurrent, or acute.
Consumption, he thinks, though varied in duration, seems to average
about two years. The higher the age, the greater the value of selec-
tion ; and, the older the members of a life-insurance company be-
come, the more do they approximate the health of the community
at large.

Another factor that operates as a saleotion against the mortality
experience is what is called lapses. A largs numbci- of policies are
constantly allowed to terminate through the indifference of the insured,
and for various other reasons. But, while the healthy often forfeit


their insurance upon slight provocation, there are few indeed, of those
that think their health impaired, that will do so. The result is, that
an undue proportion of the sickly will remain, and exert a deteriorat-
ing influence upon the average mortality.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that there is, after all, a consid-
erable difference in the middle ages between the English life table and
the insurance tables, particularly the American Experience Table. This
latter, Mr, Homans states, has the effect of selection carefully elimi-
nated, and therefore indicates a higher rate of mortality than the
actual experience. As a matter of fact, all well-managed insurance
companies, doing a sufficiently large business to furnish the basis for
reliable averages, and having a constant accession of nexn lives, experi-
ence more or less gain over the tables in use.

Before dismissing this subject, one question of a general character
yet remains to be answered, viz., how do, or may, epidemics affect the
average rate of mortality ?

As regards the possibilities of the future, it is strictly a problem
for medical and sanitary science ; but we may be allowed to draw
some inferences from the past records of a well-ordered state.

In 1849 a cholera epidemic, of a very malignant type, prevailed in
"England, considerably increasing the mortality for that year.

The number of deaths for the live years from 1848 to 1852 were
a3 follows :

1848 398,385

1849 440,883

1850 368,602

1851 395,396

1 852 407,135


It will be noticed that in 1849 the increase over the previous year was
about 42,000, while in the following year, 1850, there was a falling off
to oO,000 below the number of deaths in 1848. For the period of five
years from 1848 to 1852 the annual average of 400,000 remained un-
disturbed. This would indicate that, when through a powerful influ-
ence an excessive death-rate prevails, a large proportion of the weak
and sickly is carried off, so that by way of compensation the surviv-
ing, healthier population will for a time show a mortality below the
average. It is also well known that such inflictions are largely con-
fined to the dirtiest and most crowded quarters, and carry off princi-
pally the poor and improvident. As these classes do not insure their
lives, the mortality experience of insurance companies is no more likely
to be seriously affected by epidemics in the future than it has been in
the past.




[N the September number of "The Popular Science Monthly," 1880,
appeared an article, reprinted from the " Fortnightly Review,"
entitled "State Education : a Help or a Hindrance?" It was written
by the Honorable Auberon Herbert, an English writer of more than
ordinary ability. He opposes state education on principle ; and, as
much of his reasoning applies in this country as well as in England,
it is desirable that his fallacies should be exposed in the same journal
that has given them currency here. The writer has neither limited
his remarks to the English system, nor confined himself to obnoxious
methods of applying courses of study to the education of the young
in England or elsewhere. Had he done either, a writer on this side the
Atlantic might have hesitated to question the propriety of his convic-
tions. But, embracing, as he seems to do, the whole field of organized
state educational efl:"ort, he has opened a theme as broad as the founda-
tions on which society rests.

Some of his conclusions present points on which eminent educators,
both ^n England and in America, widely differ. A note at the bottom
of the fii-st page of his article may have some modifying effect upon
his radical conclusions. This note is in the words following: "I
ought to say that I have changed my opinions as regards the action
of the state since 1870. I would not have made this change without
the assistance of Mr. Herbert Spencer's writings." — (" Popular Science
^Monthly," vol. xvii, p. 585.) Mr. Spencer, to whose wi-itings our
author refers, has written many able things on education, with which
educators are well agreed ; but he is not understood in this country
to be wholly opposed to state education. And it may be suggested
that the disciple may differ with his teacher, or that the teacher may
himself be misunderstood in the application of his principles to par-
ticular conditions of the social status. The conditions of the state,
also, must be continually advancing beyond the demands of earlier
efforts, as society in its tastes and needs moves forward. State growth
lias no limit, and hence no rule can be laid down for the government
of the future that does not embrace the possibility of new combina-
tions. The Spencer of to-day may predict, but the Spencer of to-
morrow may find the historic progress in conflict with his prediction.
Man's needs in his social and civil relations, in his artificial progress,
can not be determined with the precision of mathematical certainty, as
we determine the movements of the planets.

The English Government, of which the writer of the article under
consideration is an integral element, is rapidly changing its position
on the question of state education. The question with his country


seems not now to bo, whether state education shall be inaugurated,
but rather what kind it shall have. The state must retain control of

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 79 of 110)