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Changes in educational differentials in old-age mortality in Finland and Sweden between 1971-1975 and 1996-2000

Zarulli, V., Jasilionis, D., Jdanov, D. A.

Demographic Research, 26:19, 489-510 (2012)

DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2012.26.19

Abstract

BACKGROUND The majority of the studies on developed countries confirm that socioeconomic mortality inequalities have been persisting or even widening. It has also been suggested that inequalities have been becoming increasingly important for old ages. OBJECTIVE In this study we systematically assess the direction and magnitude of changes in mortality differences at old ages in Sweden and Finland over the period 1971 to 2000. METHODS The vast majority of the findings on mortality differentials rely on life table or aggregated mortality measures. However, conventional mean lifespan (life expectancy) hides important characteristics of the distribution of lifespan. Modal age at death and measures of disparity provide additional important insights on longevity, especially when focusing on mortality and survival at old ages. In this paper we use high quality census-linked data and both conventional life expectancy and distribution of life span measures. RESULTS We found that the educational gap in life expectancy at age 65 and the total amount of mortality inequality by education, as reflected by average inter-group difference, increased in both countries. With the exception of Swedish females, the corresponding gap in modal age at death decreased. CONCLUSIONS Although the results suggest that the life expectancy gap is largely explained by differential mortality due to cardiovascular system diseases, the role of other causes of death (especially cancers) has also increased.

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