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Inequality in Life Spans and a New Perspective on Mortality Convergence Across Industrialized Countries

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  • Ryan D. Edwards
  • Shripad Tuljapurkar

Abstract

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed substantial convergence in life expectancy around the world. We examine differences in the age pattern of mortality in industrialized countries over time to show that inequality in adult life spans, which we measure with the standard deviation of life table ages at death above age 10 years, S 10 , is increasingly responsible for the remaining divergence in mortality. We report striking differences in level and trend of S 10 across industrialized countries since 1960, which cannot be explained by aggregate socioeconomic inequality or differential external-cause mortality. Rather, S 10 reflects both within- and between-group inequalities in life spans and conveys new information about their combined magnitudes and trends. These findings suggest that the challenge for health policies in this century is to reduce inequality, not just lengthen life. Copyright 2005 The Population Council, Inc..

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  • Ryan D. Edwards & Shripad Tuljapurkar, 2005. "Inequality in Life Spans and a New Perspective on Mortality Convergence Across Industrialized Countries," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(4), pages 645-674.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:31:y:2005:i:4:p:645-674
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    1. James Smith, 2005. "Consequences and Predictors of New Health Events," NBER Chapters,in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 213-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Arjan Gjonca & Cecilia Tomassini & James W. Vaupel, 1999. "Male-female differences in mortality in the developed world," MPIDR Working Papers WP-1999-009, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    3. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & David Weil, 2010. "Mortality change, the uncertainty effect, and retirement," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 65-91, March.
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