Postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Economic History
Lund University, Sweden
I am a historical demographer with a passion for population research in Sub-Saharan Africa. My research aims to understand the interplay between population dynamics and socioeconomic development in colonial societies.
My expertise is in historical data transcription, management, linkage, and analysis. This has most recently included the digitization of the South African Genealogical Registers, which formed the basis of my doctoral dissertation: A Demographic History of Settler South Africa.
I obtained my Ph.D. in economics from Stellenbosch University in 2016 and I currently work as a postdoctoral fellow on a joint Lund/Stellenbosch University project entitled: The Cape of Good Hope Panel: Quantitative studies of long-term growth, inequality and labour coercion in a developing region.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE PANEL
Based on annual tax censuses (Opgaafrollen) for South Africa's Cape Colony, The Cape of Good Hope Panel will be the first ever inter-generational panel data set for a developing region consisting of a large set of micro variables. More specifically, it contains a complete settler population (total 50 000 individuals), slaves (30 000) and indigenous wage workers (approximately 30 000) covering nearly 200 years (c. 1665-1840).
SOUTH AFRICAN FAMILIES
The South African Families Database (SAF) is an individual-level longitudinal demographic database. Based on genealogical registers, obtained from the Genealogical Institute of South Africa (GISA) these data contain complete family histories of all settler families from 1652 to approximately 1830 as well as those of new progenitors of settler families up to 1867 for surnames A-Z, supplemented with the revised registers complete until 1930 for surnames A-L.
WORKING PAPERS AND COLLABORATIONS
A sneak peak at what I'm currently working on
Martins, I. Fourie, J. & Cilliers, J.
Can wealth shocks have intergenerational health consequences? We use the partial compensation slaveholders received after the 1834 slave emancipation in the British Cape Colony to measure the intergenerational effects of a wealth loss on longevity. Because the share of partial compensation received was uncorrelated to wealth, we can interpret the results as having a causal influence. We find that a greater loss of slave wealth shortened the lifespans of the generation of slaveholders that experienced the shock and those of their children, but not those of their grandchildren. We speculate on the mechanisms for this intergenerational persistence.
Cilliers, J. & Mariotti, M.
The reproductive behaviour of couples during a fertility transition is by denition different to generations that have gone before. The most common techniques thought to have been enacted by couples seeking to limit fertility are earlier stopping and increased spacing. During the western fertility transition that began in the second half of the nineteenth
century these two methods were found to have occurred together. Less is known about these strategies in settler communities despite having a transitioned at much the same time as those in Europe. Our country-wide dataset of birth histories of white South African women from 1800 - 1910 allows us to contribute to the evidence on settler fertility transitions as well as to compare settler reproductive behaviour to that in Europe. We examine settler families use of birth spacing and stopping strategies to implement the fertility transition that began in the 1870s. We draw primarily on three techniques that are now increasingly common in the literature. To test for evidence of stopping we use a logit model regressing the probability of the birth interval being the final birth interval on a series of both supply and demand side characteristics. We then use a Cox-proportional hazards model, to test for evidence of changes to spacing behaviour. Finally, we use cure models, to test for both simultaneously. We show that settler couples during the fertility transition used both stopping and spacing to control the family size.
Burger, R. Fourie, J. & Cilliers, J.
Multi-generational datasets, now available across several centuries and for many countries, help us to ascertain how wealth, earnings and poverty persist over generations. The literature seems to agree on at least two fundamental reasons for this: intergenerational mobility has slowed down, and grandfathers matter. We posit an alternative explanation that questions the validity of these interpretations: unreliable data. We extend the classical errors-in-variables model to the regression coefficients from a multi-generational datasets and show that these results are consistent with simpler intergenerational dynamics once we allow for measurement error. Our results caution against over-confidence in recent intergenerational mobility estimates.
Cilliers, J. Green, E. & Ross, R.
While wealth-holding patterns in rural areas have been well-studied, the link between initial conditions, prospects for wealth accumulation, and the persistence of inequality at an agricultural frontier is less clear. On the one hand the frontier is thought to have had a leveling effect, with the availability of cheap land acting as equalizer. On the other hand, land rents, accumulated during the settlement process, are thought to have the opposite effect. In this paper we contribute to the debate on inequality in pre-industrial societies on the basis of a unique dataset that allows us to identify different wealth-accumulation strategies in an agrarian frontier society: the Graaff-Reinet district in South Africa's Cape Colony.
Social inequality in settler mortality: Exploring new sources for a pre-industrial farming society
Cilliers, J. & Rijpma, R.
In pre-industrial societies, short-term economic stress was associated with higher mortality. How socio-economic status influenced health and mortality in historical contexts, particularly when local agricultural production was critical to subsistence and harvest failures had far-reaching effects, remains under-explored. A lack of coherent, individual-level data covering pre-industrial contexts for long enough periods which consider both the material and non-material aspects of socio-economic status as well as mortality, has made testing of hypotheses related to health and wealth difficult. We aim to bring new insights into this research area by studying the mortality response to changes in agricultural output in two pre-industrial farming districts with distinctive economic structures. Located in South Africa’s Cape Colony, Stellenbosch, a relatively prosperous district with favourable agro-climatic conditions and close proximity to local and international markets, was dominated by wine and wheat growing, while Graaff-Reinet, a relatively poor and geographically isolated frontier district was dominated by pastoralism. We combine near-annual Cape Colony census returns, or opgaafrolle for these two districts with genealogical registers, to create a household-level panel of production and mortality data. We investigate social differences in mortality in these settings, while exploring the benefits and pitfalls of linked census data for modelling mortality responses in pre-industrial contexts.
‘Unobstrusively into the ranks of colonial society’: Intergenerational wealth mobility in the Cape Colony over the eighteenth century
(2019) E-pub ahead of print.
Record linkage in the Cape of Good Hope Panel
(2019) E-pub ahead of print.
Occupational mobility during South Africa's industrial take-off
The transmission of longevity across generations: The case of the settler Cape Colony
The marriage patterns of European settlers at the Cape, 1652-1910
New estimates of settler life-span and other demographic trends in South Africa, 1652-1948
References and Links to Published Papers