Journal Article

The dangers of drawing cohort profiles from period data: a research note

Demography, 1–10 (2023)
Open Access


Drawing cohort profiles and cohort forecasts from grids of age–period data is common practice in demography. In this research note, we (1) show how demographic measures artificially fluctuate when calculated from the diagonals of age– period rates because of timing and cohort-size bias, (2) estimate the magnitude of these biases, and (3) illustrate how prediction intervals for cohort indicators of mortality may become implausible when drawn from Lee–Carter methods and age–period grids. These biases are surprisingly large, even when the cohort profiles are created from single-age, single-year period data. The danger is that we overinterpret deviations from expected trends that were induced by our own data manipulation.

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.