Of entropies and inequalities: Summary measures of the age distribution of mortality

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Abstract

There is a magical mystery about the mortality pattern of a population. The accumulated deaths of tens of thousands of people create a particular statistical pattern which is willed by no one, yet which has a remarkable consistency over time. These two properties of mortality rates -their consistency and their being beyond the bounds of any individual human control- make the resulting pattern a truly social construct, one which is reflective of the social conditions in which it is generated. There is, in short, a secret locked into the mortality information generated by a population, and one of the main tasks of social demography is to find the key, and use it as an aid in sociological analysis. Considerable work, particularly over the past half century, has clearly shown the basic relationship which exists between the mean level of mortality and standards of living in the population. The challenge now is to go beyond life expectancy, and determine what other critical measure, or measures, of mortality are encrypted into the mortality pattern, and what they can tell us about the conditions under which people live -and die.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Life Table: Modelling Survival and Death
EditorsGuillaume Wunsch, Michel Mouchart, Josianne Duchêne
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
Pages95-116
Number of pages22
Volume11
ISBN (Print)978-90-481-6025-9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002

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