Journal Article

Indirect estimation of the timing of first union dissolution with incomplete marriage histories

John, B. M., Nitsche, N.
Demography, 60:2, 411–430 (2023)
Open Access


The lack of nationally representative data with detailed marriage histories in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) impedes a comprehensive understanding of essential aspects of union dissolution, such as the timing of first union dissolution, in these countries. We propose a method for estimating quantum-adjusted measures of the timing of first union dissolution from incomplete marriage histories. This method, indirect life table of first union dissolution (ILTUD), estimates the first union survival function from a simple tabulation of ever-married women by duration since first union, classified by union dissolution status (intact vs. dissolved first union). It then uses the relationships between life table functions to generate the distribution of marriages ending each year (ø(t)) for a given marriage cohort. Using this distribution, ILTUD generates quantum-adjusted first union survival rates from which the percentiles of first union dissolution are calculated. ILTUD estimates are consistent with estimates produced using traditional statistical methods, such as the Kaplan–Meier estimator. In addition, ILTUD is simple to implement and has minimal data requirements, which are available in most nationally representative surveys. Thus, the ILTUD method has the potential to broaden our understanding of union dissolution dynamics in LMICs.

Keywords: demographic analysis, family demography
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