Volume 44 - Article 35 | Pages 853–864 Author has provided data and code for replicating results Article has associated letter

Outsurvival as a measure of the inequality of lifespans between two populations

By James W. Vaupel, Marie-Pier Bergeron-Boucher, Ilya Kashnitsky

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Date received:28 Oct 2020
Date published:15 Apr 2021
Word count:3115
Keywords:comparing two distributions, inequalities, lifespan, population distribution
Additional files:readme.44-35 (text file, 3 kB)
 demographic-research.44-35 (zip file, 28 kB)
Weblink:All publications in the ongoing Special Collection 8 "Formal Relationships" can be found at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/8/


Background: Inequality in lifespans between two populations, e.g., males and females or people with low and high socioeconomic status, is a focus of demographic, economic, and sociological research and of public policy analysis. Such inequality is usually measured by differences in life expectancy.

Objective: We aim to devise a cogent measure of how much distributions of lifespans differ between two populations.

Results: We propose an outsurvival statistic, φ (phi), that measures the probability that an individual from a population with low life expectancy will live longer than an individual from a population with high life expectancy. This statistic can also be interpreted as an underdog probability – the chance that a random value from a distribution with a low mean will exceed a random value from a distribution with a higher mean.

Contribution: Our outsurvival probability complements life-expectancy differences to provide a more nuanced view of the inequality of lifespans between two populations. Our mathematically equivalent underdog probability provides an intuitive and widely applicable perspective on the more general question of how disparate two distributions are.

Author's Affiliation

James W. Vaupel - Syddansk Universitet, Denmark
Marie-Pier Bergeron-Boucher - Syddansk Universitet, Denmark [Email]
Ilya Kashnitsky - Syddansk Universitet, Denmark [Email]

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