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The Narrowing Sex Differential in Life Expectancy in High-Income Populations: Effects of Differences in the Age Pattern of Mortality

Dana A. Glei and Shiro Horiuchi
Population Studies
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Jul., 2007), pp. 141-159
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27643410
Page Count: 19
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The Narrowing Sex Differential in Life Expectancy in High-Income Populations: Effects of Differences in the Age Pattern of Mortality
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Abstract

Using data from the Human Mortality Database for 29 high-income national populations (1751—2004), we review trends in the sex differential in e(0). The widening of this gap during most of the 1900s was due largely to a slower mortality decline for males than females, which previous studies attributed to behavioural factors (e.g., smoking). More recently, the gap began to narrow in most countries, and researchers tried to explain this reversal with the same factors. However, our decomposition analysis reveals that, for the majority of countries, the recent narrowing is due primarily to sex differences in the age pattern of mortality rather than declining sex ratios in mortality: the same rate of mortality decline produces smaller gains in e(0) for women than for men because women's deaths are less dispersed across age (i.e., survivorship is more rectangular).

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