Expectation of Life at Birth

Measures of expectation of remaining life at any age, including at birth, are summary measures of mortality above that age. Contradictory trends at different ages can cancel each other out. Moreover, recent experience in the former Soviet Union shows that these "averages" can change rather quickly in either direction. Finally, such measures are especially susceptible to changes in mortality rates at the older ages (Anderson and Silver, 1989a; Vaupel, 1986). For all of these reasons, it is a good idea when studying mortality to disaggregate the mortality experience by age and to be wary of summary measures that may be especially susceptible to error in the data, despite the temptation to rely on the expectation of life at birth as a handy overall indicator.

Approach to Data Analysis

As noted in the introduction, given the substantial problems with infant mortality data and with mortality data for advanced ages (see also Anderson and Silver, 1986b, 1989a, 1994b), this chapter concentrates on ages at which the data are generally relatively reliable. In parts of the analysis we examine data for ages 10-79; in other parts, we concentrate on ages 20-59. While neither of these age ranges is consistent with the formal definition of "working ages" in the Soviet Union (ages 16-59 for men and 16-54 for women), they are useful for purposes of the present analysis.

The first post-World War II life tables for the Soviet Union were produced for 1958-1959. For both males and females, published values of expectation of life at birth increased from 1959 through 1964 (for an overview of trends, see Anderson and Silver, 1990b; see also the chapters in this volume by Shkolnikov et al., Vassin and Costello, and Murray and Bobadilla in this volume). Expectation of life at birth fell from 1964 through 1979 and then increased through 1990. Recent information has shown that expectation of life at birth has fallen since 1990 in many of the NIS countries. Turning points around 1964, 1980, and 1991 appear for many different regions of the former Soviet Union. All of these inflection points are much sharper for males than for females. Their source is still not clear, especially concerning the 1964 and 1980 reversals. Neither of these turning points appears to be related to any obvious changes in health care expenditures, environmental or public health crises, or other policy changes. However, the link between the reported sharp decline in mortality in the mid-1980s and the anti-alcohol campaign is well documented (Shkolnikov and Vassin, 1994; Shkolnikov et al., 1994; see also the chapters by Treml and by Shkolnikov and Nemtsov in this volume).13

We concentrate on data for 1978-1979 and 1990. For these dates we have life tables by age and sex for rural and urban populations for every republic of the Soviet Union. In 1978-1979, reported expectation of life at birth was about at its

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