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Odds of living a very long life lower than formerly predicted
Date:2/6/2012

Research just published by a team of demographers at the social science research organization NORC at the University of Chicago contradicts a long-held belief that the mortality rate of Americans flattens out above age 80.

It also explains why there are only half as many people in the U.S. age 100 and above than the Census Bureau predicted there would be as recently as six years ago.

The research is based on a new way of accurately measuring mortality of Americans who are 80 years of age and older, an issue that has proven remarkably elusive in the past. The work will be significant in arriving at more accurate cost projections for programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which are based in part on mortality rates.

The research, done by Leonid A. Gavrilov and Natalia S. Gavrilova, and published in the current edition of the North American Actuarial Journal, is based on highly accurate information about the date of birth and the date of death of more than nine million Americans born between 1875 and 1895. The data is publicly available in the Social Security Administration Death Master File. "It is a remarkable resource that allowed us to build what is called an extinct birth cohort that corrects or explains a number of misunderstandings about the mortality rate of our oldest citizens," said Leonid Gavrilov.

A stark example of the problem of estimating the number of people over 100 came recently when the U.S. Census Bureau revised sharply downward the number of living centenarians. Six years ago, the bureau predicted that by 2010 there would be 114,000 people age 100 or older. The actual number turned out to be 53,364. The projection was wrong by a factor of two.

The newly published paper, titled "Mortality Measurement at Advanced Ages: A Study of the Social Security Administration Death Master File," explains the discrepancy and is likely to make a difference in the way mortality projections for the
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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