The Narrowing Sex Gap in Life Expectancy: Effects of Sex Differences in the Age Pattern of Mortality

Dana A. Glei, University of California, Berkeley
Shiro Horiuchi, Rockefeller University

Using data from the Human Mortality Database for 29 high-income national populations (1751-2004), we review trends in the sex gap in e(0). Widening of the sex gap during most of the 1900s was largely due to slower mortality decline for males than females, which previous studies attributed to behavioural factors (e.g., smoking). More recently, the gap began to narrow in most countries, which researchers tried to explain with these same factors. However, our decomposition analysis reveals that for the majority of countries recent narrowing is primarily due to sex differences in the age pattern of mortality rather than declining sex ratios in mortality: the same rate of mortality decline produces smaller gains in e(0) for women than men because female deaths are less dispersed across age (i.e., survivorship is more rectangular). This study demonstrates that sex differences in the age pattern of mortality affect trends in the e(0) sex gap.

  See paper

Presented in Session 52: Issues in the Measurement of Mortality