The life table: A sociological overview

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    “...the prosperity of states consists less in the multiplication than in the conservation of the individuals composing it.” Quetelet, [1835]: 28 Life tables have come a long way since the middle of the 17th century, when John Graunt first tried chaining together age specific mortality risks to estimate an average individual’s survival probabilities and expected age of death. The basic method has changed little since then, and was essentially fixed by the mid 19 century (Stolnitz, 1955), and life expectancy has become as important a marker of social conditions in a population as the Gross Domestic Product, and perhaps even more meaningful (Morris, 1979). Furthermore, the method has been shown to be applicable in a variety of settings. Indeed, wherever age-specific transition probabilities can be specified, a life table methodology can be used to estimate the mean length of time before an individual undergoes a particular event, and to break that event down into a variety of categories (see, e.g. Desrosiers & Le Bourdais, 1993, on the dynamics of single-motherhood; Almgren et al., 1998, on violent deaths; Juby & Le Bourdais, 1998, on fatherhood; and Manton & Land, 2000, on disability and institutionalisation).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Life Table: Modelling Survival and Death
    EditorsGuillaume Wunsch, Michel Mouchart, Josianne Duchêne
    PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
    Number of pages21
    ISBN (Print)978-90-481-6025-9
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002


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