Volume 35 - Article 4 | Pages 81–116  

Sigma and beta convergence in regional mortality: A case study of the Netherlands

By Fanny Janssen, Anthe van den Hende, Joop de Beer, Leo van Wissen


Background: For allocation of health budgets it is important to know whether regional mortality differences tend to decline or to increase. Sigma convergence tests can measure whether the dispersion of the regional distribution of mortality has declined. Beta convergence tests can examine whether regions with a low level of life expectancy have experienced a stronger increase than regions with a high level. In demographic research, however, sigma and beta convergence have not been formally assessed simultaneously.

Objective: We demonstrate the application of both sigma and beta convergence tests to the study of trends in regional mortality differences for the Netherlands.

Methods: Using all-cause mortality and population data for 40 Dutch NUTS-3 regions, by year (1988‒2009), age group, and sex, we assess both sigma and beta convergence, and ist significance.

Results: Beta convergence proved statistically significant. The regions with the lowest life expectancy in 1988 generally exhibited the highest increase from 1988 to 2009, and vice versa. However, dispersion measures displayed no statistically significant sigma convergence.

Conclusions: Whereas the absence of sigma convergence shows that regional mortality differences have not declined, beta convergence indicates that the disadvantage of regions with low life expectancy is not persistent.

Contribution: We demonstrated the added value of simultaneously studying sigma convergence, beta convergence, and trajectories of regions in the tails of the distribution. Where absence of sigma convergence does not imply that disadvantaged regions did not improve, beta convergence does not always indicate complete convergence due to structural differences across regions.

Author's Affiliation

  • Fanny Janssen - Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI), the Netherlands EMAIL
  • Anthe van den Hende - Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences (FORS), Switzerland EMAIL
  • Joop de Beer - Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI), the Netherlands EMAIL
  • Leo van Wissen - Nederlands Interdisciplinair Demografisch Instituut (NIDI), the Netherlands EMAIL

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Impact of different mortality forecasting methods and explicit assumptions on projected future life expectancy: The case of the Netherlands
Volume 29 - Article 13

A multistate model to project elderly disability in case of limited data
Volume 32 - Article 3

Distortion of regional old-age mortality due to late-life migration in the Netherlands?
Volume 29 - Article 5

Smoothing and projecting age-specific probabilities of death by TOPALS
Volume 27 - Article 20

The contribution of smoking to regional mortality differences in the Netherlands
Volume 27 - Article 9

A new relational method for smoothing and projecting age-specific fertility rates: TOPALS
Volume 24 - Article 18

The Netherlands: Childbearing within the context of a "Poldermodel" society
Volume 19 - Article 21

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Standardized mean age at death (MADstd): Exploring its potentials as a measure of human longevity
Volume 50 - Article 30    | Keywords: formal demography, life expectancy, mean age at death, mortality, standardization

How lifespan and life years lost equate to unity
Volume 50 - Article 24    | Keywords: life expectancy, life table entropy, life years lost, lifespan variation

Subnational contribution to life expectancy and life span variation changes: Evidence from the United States
Volume 50 - Article 22    | Keywords: decomposition methods, life expectancy, lifespan variation, subnational mortality

Mortality inequalities at retirement age between migrants and non-migrants in Denmark and Sweden
Volume 50 - Article 18    | Keywords: immigration, life expectancy, lifespan inequality, Nordic countries, pension age, pension policy

Racial classification as a multistate process
Volume 50 - Article 17    | Keywords: Brazil, demography, increments to life, life expectancy, life table, mortality, multistate, race/ethnicity