U.S. small-area life expectancy estimates project : methodology and results summary
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U.S. small-area life expectancy estimates project : methodology and results summary

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      Objectives: This report describes the methodology developed to produce the first set of abridged period life tables for U.S. census tracts for the 2010–2015 period and presents a summary of results.

      Methods: The methodology used to calculate the U.S. census- tract abridged life tables consisted of several stages. First, through a collaboration between the National Vital Statistics System registration areas and the National Center for Health Statistics, death records of U.S. residents (excluding residents of Maine and Wisconsin) for deaths occurring in 2010 through 2015 were geocoded using decedents’ residential addresses to identify and code census tracts. Second, population estimates were produced based on the 2010 decennial census and the 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-year survey. Third, a methodology that combined standard demographic techniques and statistical modeling was developed to address challenges posed by small population sizes and small and missing age-specific death counts. Last, standard, abridged life table methods were adjusted to account for error introduced by population estimates based on sample data.

      Results: Statistically reliable, abridged, period life tables were produced for 88.7% of U.S. census tracts (65,662). A battery of tests revealed that the census-tract life table functions followed expected patterns; their distribution about state and U.S. values showed no aberrations; and their weighted mean values compared well with state- and national-level estimates. The weighted mean life expectancy at birth for the 65,662 census tracts was 78.7 years compared with the official U.S. estimate of 78.8 years in midyear 2013. The results of this study concur with previous research showing that a minimum population size of 5,000 is acceptable, with the caveat that missing age-specific death counts cannot be ignored. The methodology developed for this study addressed the issues of small populations and zero deaths as robustly as possible, although it is not without error.

      Suggested citation: Arias E, Escobedo LA, Kennedy J, Fu C, Cisewski J. U.S. small-area life expectancy estimates project: Methodology and results summary. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 2(181). 2018.


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