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Soc Biol. 1998 Spring-Summer;45(1-2):1-20.

Contribution of cause-specific mortality to changing sex differences in life expectancy: seven nations case study.

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Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


During the last two decades some industrialized nations witnessed varying degrees of constriction in their sex gaps in overall life expectancy. We investigate this development by paying particular attention to the contributions of major causes of death to the change in the difference between 1970 and 1990. The analysis is based on the experiences of seven nations: Australia, United States, Sweden, England and Wales, Portugal, Hungary, and Japan. In the first four countries the gap has been narrowing during the last twenty years; in Hungary and Japan, the difference remains substantial and continues to expand; in Portugal the situation is characterized by a slowdown in the amount by which the sex gap is expanding over time. We apply decomposition analysis to answer the following questions: (1) What is the relative contribution of major causes of death to sex differences in average length of life within broad age categories? (2) How do the contributions of age and cause of death vary across time to either widen or narrow the sex gap in survival? (3) How do the patterns of cause contribution vary across societies?

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