Decomposing Changes in Life Expectancy at Birth by Age, Sex, and Residence from 1929 to 2000 in China

Danan Gu, Duke University
Danzhen You, University of California, Berkeley
Haiyan Zhu, University of Michigan
Sarah E. Tom, University of California, Berkeley
Yi Zeng, Duke University

Life expectancy at birth (LEAB) in China has doubled in the twentieth century from below 35 years to over 70 years. To capture the contribution of mortality change to the increase in LEAB, we decomposed the changes in LEAB by age, sex, and residence in six periods between 1929 and 2000. Based on available life tables, we performed the decomposition using Arriaga’s discrete method. The results showed dramatic increases in LEAB in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Overall, mortality declines among young ages contributed more to the increase in LEAB, with an upward trend of contribution found among adulthood and elderhood since 1980. We discuss possible causalities between changes in LEAB and historical events and social disruptions such as wars, famine, regime change, women’s movement, the Cultural Revolution, economic reform and epidemiological transition in different periods.

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Presented in Session 110: Long Run Trends and Differentials in Mortality