This study uses data from a random sample of births in the Netherlands during the period 1850–1922 to examine the relationships between social class, social mobility and mortality at middle and old age. Population registers and personal cards covering the period from 1850 to 2004 for all Dutch provinces were used to reconstruct individual life histories of 14,900 births. For men we did not find an effect of the social class of origin (using two different SES-classifications) on mortality in age group 18 to 35. We also did not observe an effect of own social class on mortality after age 35. For women effects of social class of origin and social class of husband were generally absent as well. Our conclusion is that the standard ideas about the negative effects of processes of industrialization and urbanization on the duration of life do not seem to apply to the Netherlands. Where one lived mattered more for survival than the social class one belonged to.
► Own class position mattered more than that of family of origin. ► Own social class restricted effect on older adults and the aged. ► Social class scheme used had limited effect on outcomes.
Keywords: Adult mortality; Netherlands; SES differentials; 19th–20th century; Historical sample of the Netherlands