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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/556

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552
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

data for the earlier years of our history are wanting, and at present very few of our states keep a careful registration of births and deaths, although a large number of our cities are now recording their vital statistics with increasing care. The absence of city life with its baneful consequences somewhat relieves us from the charge of infanticide, but the exposure and the rigors of the Atlantic seaboard worked its many hardships. Data for New York before 1850 show that 27 per cent, of its infants died before reaching the age of one, but the rate for Boston was comparatively low, being recorded as less than 20 per cent.—a figure exceeded by many cities at the present time. Conditions in Massachusetts have been relatively favorable and its vital statistics indicate that the death-dealing influences of the close of the century were more fatal than those operating at the beginning of the Civil War. This observation, discouraging as it is, is somewhat softened by the favorable changes in the death rate of children below the age of five. These records prove that a constantly growing percentage of children live to that age, and once having reached the fifth year the chance of a life of future usefulness is considerably increased. The expectation of life in Boston according to the reports of the Census Bureau was in 1900, 9.74 years greater for the child of five than for the infant at birth. This difference is, moreover, diminishing, as it certainly must if mortality is being checked. A similar difference in the English expectation of life argues for similar rates of mortality for children at these ages. The low death rate of children between the ages of five and fourteen insures the succession of a large majority to an adult age. Civilization demands that this be a constantly increasing proportion and that the fewest possible number of lives be wrecked in the adolescent stage. The energies of society must be expended in many various directions where the need is most urgent, and where reforms are clearly possible. That society should waste vast portions of its accumulating energies is not only deplorable and a hindrance to social advance, but is a mark of criminal neglect. Where waste of lives can be avoided, as the decreasing mortality of children shows, there inaction by society is unpardonable.

In spite of the existence of many plague spots, where innocent infants are barbarously slain, the statistics set forth by the twelfth census furnish ground for a growing optimism. Although a large percentage of inaccuracy obtains, the figures are sufficiently reliable and comparable to indicate quite faithfully the hopeful tendency toward child saving. The tables for the registration area show that the infantile death rate fell from 205 per 1,000 births in 1890 to 165 in 1900. In the former year one out of every five infants died, although allowance should be made for unrecorded births. In the latter year one out of every six—a gain of approximately 20 per cent. For children under five the gain is even more favorable, thus demon-