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Demographic Techniques: Life-Table Methods


Subject Sociology » Demography and Population Studies

Key-Topics quantitative methods

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


A life table describes the survival of a hypothetical group of persons from birth, through successive ages, to the death of the last member. In doing so, it shows the implications of a set of age-specific mortality rates for the probability of surviving from one age to another, and provides useful summary measures such as the expectation of life at birth. Beyond its wide use in studies of mortality, the life table has been used in studies of marriage, divorce, contraceptive use, and many other topics where it is valuable to examine how rates of decrement reduce the number of persons in a closed group. The life table dates back to the seventeenth century. In 1662, John Graunt produced the first, rather crude, table based on English experience. In 1694, Edmund Halley (of comet fame) constructed a life table for Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), adding actuarial functions to facilitate the calculation of life annuities. Life tables are now available for nearly all countries, and are routinely produced by government statistical offices, insurance companies, and academic demographers. Online resources are available as well, including the Human Mortality Database ( www.mortality.org ). Life tables describe the mortality experience of a population, facilitate population projections, and are central to calculating the costs of life insurance and life annuities. Mortality (death) rates are ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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