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Int J Forecast. 1993 Aug;9(2):187-202.

Modeling and forecasting the time series of US fertility: age distribution, range, and ultimate level.



This discussion of modeling focuses on the difficulties in longterm, time-series forecasting of US fertility. Four possibilities are suggested. One difficulty with the traditional approach of using high or low bounds on fertility and mortality is that forecast errors are perfectly correlated over time, which means there are no cancellation of errors over time. The shape of future fertility intervals first increases, then stabilizes, and then decreases instead of remaining stable. This occurs because the number of terms being averaged increases with horizontal length. Alho and Spencer attempted to reduce these errors in time-series. Other difficulties are the idiosyncratic behavior of age specific fertility over time, biological bounds for total fertility rates (TFR) of 16 and zero, the integration of knowledge about fertility behavior that narrows the bounds, the unlikelihood of some probability outcomes of stochastic models with a normally distributed error term, the small relative change in TFR between years, a US fertility cycle of about 40 years, unimportant extrapolation of past trends in child and infant mortality, and the unlikelihood of reversals in mortality and contraceptive use trends. Another problem is the unsuitability of longterm forecasts. New methods include a model which estimates a one parameter family of fertility schedules and then forecasts that single parameter. Another method is a logistic transformation to account for prior information on the bounds on fertility estimates; this method is similar to Bayesian methods for ARMA models developed by Monahan. Models include information on the ultimate level of fertility and assume that the equilibrium level is a stochastic process trending over time. The horizon forecast method is preferred unless the effects of the outliers are known. Estimates of fertility are presented for the equilibrium constrained and logistic transformed model. Forecasts of age specific fertility rates can be calculated from forecasts of the fertility index (a single time varying parameter). The model of fertility fits poorly at older ages but captures some of the wide swings in the historical pattern. Age variations are not accounted for very well. Longterm forecasts tell a great deal about the uncertainty of forecast errors. Estimates are too sensitive to model specification for accuracy and ignore the biological and socioeconomic context.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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