Hurricanes, fertility, and family structure: a study of early 20th century Jamaica

Robert J.R. Elliott*, Eric A. Strobl, Thomas Tveit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This study investigates the impact of hurricanes on fertility and the role of family structure in early 20th century Jamaica. Importantly, this was a time period in which there were no storm warnings or other formal disaster mitigation policies in place, allowing one to arguably identify the causal effect of storms on births without any policy interference. To this end, historical hurricane tracks and an exhaustive register of births are used to create a parish level monthly data set on births and hurricane destruction for the period 1901 to 1929. The regression analysis reveals that hurricanes impact excess births for close to 2 years after the event, with the average damaging storm causing a reduction in births of around 13%. Most of the negative effect is due to lower post-storm fertility rather than a fall in births by women affected while pregnant. There is no evidence that the fall in births was driven by fertile females dying as a result of the hurricane. Similarly, there was no discernible differential impact between single mother and two parent registered births, where the impact on the latter appears to be driven by non-marital conjugal unions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory of the Family
Early online date19 Sept 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Family
  • Fertility
  • hurricanes
  • Jamaica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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