Digital and Computational Demography

At a Glance Projects Publications Team


Formal Demographic Approaches to the Study of Inequalities in Mortality and Kinship Resources

Ugofilippo Basellini, Diego Alburez-Gutierrez, Emilio Zagheni

Detailed Description

Formal demographic relationships have long been the subject of significant interest from demographers, actuaries, and statisticians, who have laid the rigorous foundation upon which demography is based. Formal demography remains an active area of research today, as advances in the field play a fundamental role for the progress of population science.

In this project, we aim at developing and introducing new formal relationships in demography, with the goal of analyzing and comparing demographic change across countries and over time. The project currently focuses on two main research areas: mortality and kinship dynamics.

Relative or absolute variability of the age-at-death distribution, which measures the degree of (in)equality in lifespans within a population, has become an important demographic indicator of health inequality. We aim at providing novel insights into the study of health disparity by (i) investigating new relationships between life expectancy and lifespan equality and (ii) monitoring and comparing changes in lifespan equality across countries, time, and cohorts.

Specifically, it is important to analyze the long-term dynamic relationship between life expectancy and lifespan equality. The two measures have generally increased together over the last century, but they have occasionally moved in opposite directions in recent decades. Expressing the two measures as weighted averages of age-specific mortality improvements enables us to understand the factors driving this relationship: saving lives at younger ages is key to increasing both life expectancy and lifespan equality.

The second strand of the project focuses on expanding classic methods from the formal demography of kinship to study how demographic change affects the availability of kinship resources throughout the life course and the exposure to mortality of relatives within the family. We aim at developing new measures to quantify population-level inequalities in kin availability and kin mortality under different demographic regimes. Methods for estimating shared lifetimes between different kin types across time and over the life course, for example, are particularly needed in low-income settings, where traditional analyses cannot be done, given the inadequacy of existing data for direct estimation. Measures of the frequency and timing of deaths in the family matter because empirical research has shown that these events have long-lasting negative effects for bereaved relatives, but we lack a clear understanding of the demographic dynamics underlying this phenomenon.

Research Keywords:

Ageing, Mortality and Longevity, Projections and Forecasting, Statistics and Mathematics

Region keywords:

Europe, Japan, Sweden, USA


Bonetti, M.; Gigliarano, C.; Basellini, U.:
In: Gini inequality index: methods and applications, 1–18. Boca Raton: Chapman and Hall/CRC. (2021)
Williams, I.; Alburez-Gutierrez, D.:
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2021-001. (2021)    
Aburto, J. M.; Villavicencio, F.; Basellini, U.; Kjærgaard, S.; Vaupel, J. W.:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117:10, 5250–5259. (2020)    
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.