Journal Article

Drewnowski’s index to measure lifespan variation: revisiting the Gini coefficient of the life table

Aburto, J. M., Basellini, U., Baudisch, A., Villavicencio, F.
Theoretical Population Biology, 1–10 (2022)
Open Access


The Gini coefficient of the life table is a concentration index that provides information on lifespan variation. Originally proposed by economists to measure income and wealth inequalities, it has been widely used in population studies to investigate variation in ages at death. We focus on the complement of the Gini coefficient, Drewnowski’s index, which is a measure of equality. We study its mathematical properties and analyze how changes over time relate to changes in life expectancy. Further, we identify the threshold age below which mortality improvements are translated into decreasing lifespan variation and above which these improvements translate into increasing lifespan inequality. We illustrate our theoretical findings simulating scenarios of mortality improvement in the Gompertz model, and showing an example of application to Swedish life table data. Our experiments demonstrate how Drewnowski’s index can serve as an indicator of the shape of mortality patterns. These properties, along with our analytical findings, support studying lifespan variation alongside life expectancy trends in multiple species.

Keywords: Sweden, inequality, life expectancy, mortality
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.