The Life Table pp 283-303 | Cite as

The life table: A sociological overview

  • Jon Anson
Part of the European Studies of Population book series (ESPO, volume 11)


“...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).


Life Expectancy Life Table Mortality Decline Epidemiological Transition Life Table Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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