Journal Article

Flexible transition timing in discrete-time multistate life tables using Markov chains with rewards

Population Studies, 1–15 (2023)
Open Access


Discrete-time multistate life tables are attractive because they are easier to understand and apply in comparison with their continuous-time counterparts. While such models are based on a discrete time grid, it is often useful to calculate derived magnitudes (e.g. state occupation times), under assumptions which posit that transitions take place at other times, such as mid-period. Unfortunately, currently available models allow very few choices about transition timing. We propose the use of Markov chains with rewards as a general way of incorporating information on the timing of transitions into the model. We illustrate the usefulness of rewards-based multistate life tables by estimating working life expectancies using different retirement transition timings. We also demonstrate that for the single-state case, the rewards approach matches traditional life-table methods exactly. Finally, we provide code to replicate all results from the paper plus R and Stata packages for general use of the method proposed.

Keywords: expectation of working life, life tables, Markov chains
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.