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Maria Stanfors. Foto.

Maria Stanfors


Maria Stanfors. Foto.

Membership in Mutual Health Insurance Societies: The Case of Swedish Manufacturing, circa 1900


  • Maria Stanfors
  • Tobias Karlsson
  • Lars-Fredrik Andersson
  • Liselotte Eriksson

Summary, in English

Industrialization brought significant economic and social changes. As a response to the risk of income loss due to illness and workplace accidents, mutual health insurance was the main financial vehicle for workers at the turn of the twentieth century across the Western world. We studied individual and firm-level determinants of membership in health insurance societies among male workers in Swedish manufacturing by using matched employer- employee data from the tobacco, printing, and mechanical engineering industries. Such data are extremely rare but important for our purpose. They cover all workers (i.e., members and non-members) and firms in a specific year around 1900 (N>12,000). In the years before the first statutory attempts to improve working conditions, we find remarkably high rates of membership, especially in mechanical engineering. We also find an association between membership and age, which is mainly a difference between younger and older adults, but the societies’ egalitarian pricing gave workers no reason to defer enrolment until a higher age related to health problems. Social interaction may explain early membership in the printing and tobacco industries, where we find a positive association between membership among older workers and the enrolment of younger workers.


  • Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen
  • Centrum för ekonomisk demografi
  • Historiska arbetsmarknader






Lund Papers in Economic History




Working paper


  • Economic History




  • Stronger together? A micro-history of collective action and working life in turn of the last century Sweden