Research Group

Lifespan Inequalities

At a Glance Projects Publications Team

Detailed Description

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“Lifespan inequalities: Why ages at death vary between countries and socioeconomic groups (LIFEINEQ)”

Does it matter if everyone dies at similar ages, or if ages at death are highly spread out in society? These are the questions investigated by the Lifespan Inequalities research group. Typically, demographers look at average outcomes in life expectancy. This overlooks the variability in age at death, which is substantial, and differs across countries and socioeconomic groups.

Individuals and populations are surviving to ever higher ages. A crucial and timely question for policymakers is whether to direct limited resources toward future life expectancy increases or toward reductions of inequalities in longevity. These inequalities, hereafter referred to as lifespan inequality but also known as age-at-death variation, are large, infrequently summarized, and impose major costs on individuals and society.

At present, age patterns of mortality decline are shifting to older ages for most populations. At the same time, certain populations and subgroups have experienced stalls in mortality decline over middle adult ages. Together or individually, these opposing dynamics have the potential to increase lifespan inequalities, dynamics which would not be seen by looking at life expectancy alone. This ERC-funded project (July 2017-June 2022) will undertake the most comprehensive inquiry to date into the development and anticipated future course of lifespan inequality in contemporary developed countries.

Specifically LIFEINEQ has four main research objectives:

  1. To quantify the recent and forecasted contributions of premature and old age mortality decline to changes in lifespan inequalities
  2. To determine the ages and causes of death that drive outlying age patterns of mortality
  3. To analyze the development of lifespan inequality by socioeconomic groups
  4. To assess the impact of individual differences in behaviour on lifespan inequality.

LIFEINEQ will tackle the above objectives using a combination of established and newly developed decomposition techniques and models which aim to isolate the ages, causes of death, periods, cohorts, and socioeconomic groups that propagate lifespan inequalities.

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.