MPIDR Working Paper

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

MPIDR Working Paper WP-2022-011, 14 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (March 2022)
Open Access


Lack of nationally representative data with detailed marriage histories in developing countries impedes comprehensive understanding of essential aspects of union dissolution in these countries – for example, the timing of first union dissolution. This research note proposes a method, denoted as 'Indirect Life Table of first Union Dissolution' (ILTUD), for estimating quantum adjusted measures of the timing of first union dissolution from incomplete marriage histories. ILTUD estimates a survival function of first union 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 (θ(t)) for a given marriage cohort. Using the distribution of θ(t), 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 simple data requirements – available in most nationally representative surveys, e.g. the Demographic Health Surveys. Thus, ILTUD presents an opportunity for broadening our understanding of union dissolution dynamics in developing countries.

Keywords: life tables, marriage duration
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.