IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Mortality Deceleration and Mortality Selection: Three Unexpected Implications of a Simple Model

  • Elizabeth Wrigley-Field


Registered author(s):

    Unobserved heterogeneity in mortality risk is pervasive and consequential. Mortality deceleration—the slowing of mortality’s rise with age—has been considered an important window into heterogeneity that otherwise might be impossible to explore. In this article, I argue that deceleration patterns may reveal surprisingly little about the heterogeneity that putatively produces them. I show that even in a very simple model—one that is composed of just two subpopulations with Gompertz mortality—(1) aggregate mortality can decelerate even while a majority of the cohort is frail; (2) multiple decelerations are possible; and (3) mortality selection can produce acceleration as well as deceleration. Simulations show that these patterns are plausible in model cohorts that in the aggregate resemble cohorts in the Human Mortality Database. I argue that these results challenge some conventional heuristics for understanding the relationship between selection and deceleration; undermine certain inferences from deceleration timing to patterns of social inequality; and imply that standard parametric models, assumed to plateau at most once, may sometimes badly misestimate deceleration timing—even by decades. Copyright Population Association of America 2014

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Demography.

    Volume (Year): 51 (2014)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 51-71

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:51:y:2014:i:1:p:51-71
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Alberto Palloni, 2006. "Reproducing inequalities: Luck, wallets, and the enduring effects of childhood health," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 587-615, November.
    2. Hui Zheng & Yang Yang & Kenneth Land, 2011. "Heterogeneity in the Strehler-Mildvan General Theory of Mortality and Aging," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(1), pages 267-290, February.
    3. Maxim Finkelstein, 2012. "Discussing the Strehler-Mildvan model of mortality," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 26(9), pages 191-206, March.
    4. Lisa Berkman & Burton Singer & Kenneth Manton, 1989. "Black/White Differences in Health Status and Mortality Among the Elderly," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 661-678, November.
    5. David Steinsaltz & Kenneth Wachter, 2006. "Understanding Mortality Rate Deceleration and Heterogeneity," Mathematical Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(1), pages 19-37.
    6. 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.
    7. Shiro Horiuchi & John Wilmoth, 1998. "Deceleration in the age pattern of mortality at olderages," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 391-412, November.
    8. Dora Costa, 2012. "Scarring and Mortality Selection Among Civil War POWs: A Long-Term Mortality, Morbidity, and Socioeconomic Follow-Up," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(4), pages 1185-1206, November.
    9. Anna Zajacova & Noreen Goldman & German Rodriguez, 2009. "Unobserved Heterogeneity Can Confound the Effect of Education on Mortality," Mathematical Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 153-173.
    10. Michal Engelman & Vladimir Canudas-Romo & Emily M. Agree, 2010. "The Implications of Increased Survivorship for Mortality Variation in Aging Populations," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(3), pages 511-539.
    11. Matthew Dupre & Alexis Franzese & Emilio Parrado, 2006. "Religious attendance and mortality: Implications for the black-white mortality crossover," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 141-164, February.
    12. Ryan Masters, 2012. "Uncrossing the U.S. Black-White Mortality Crossover: The Role of Cohort Forces in Life Course Mortality Risk," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 773-796, August.
    13. John Bongaarts, 2005. "Long-range trends in adult mortality: Models and projection methods," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 23-49, February.
    14. Scott Lynch & J. Brown, 2001. "Reconsidering mortality compression and deceleration: an alternative model of mortality rates," Demography, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 79-95, February.
    15. Trifon I. Missov & Maxim S. Finkelstein, 2011. "Admissible mixing distributions for a general class of mixture survival models with known asymptotics," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2011-004, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    16. Dustin Brown & Mark Hayward & Jennifer Montez & Robert Hummer & Chi-Tsun Chiu & Mira Hidajat, 2012. "The Significance of Education for Mortality Compression in the United States," Demography, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 819-840, August.
    17. James Vaupel & Kenneth Manton & Eric Stallard, 1979. "The impact of heterogeneity in individual frailty on the dynamics of mortality," Demography, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 439-454, August.
    18. Bert Kestenbaum, 1992. "A description of the extreme aged population based on improved medicare enrollment data," Demography, Springer, vol. 29(4), pages 565-580, November.
    19. James W. Vaupel & Zhen Zhang, 2010. "Attrition in heterogeneous cohorts," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 23(26), pages 737-748, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:51:y:2014:i:1:p:51-71. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

    or (Christopher F Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.