How Inferences about Mortality Rates and Gradients Vary by Source of Mortality Information

John R. Warren, University of Minnesota
Carolina Milesi, University of Chicago
Karen Grigorian, University of Chicago
Melissa H. Humphries, University of Texas at Austin
Chandra Muller, University of Texas at Austin

Researchers who study mortality among participants in longitudinal studies have multiple options for obtaining information about which participants died (and when and how they died). Some use credit bureau-based databases; others use the National Death Index; some use the Social Security Death Index; and still others combine sources and use more genealogical methods. In this paper, we ask how inferences about mortality gradients are altered by the choice of source of mortality information. Using new data on a cohort of 13,479 people who were first interviewed as high school sophomores in 1980 and for whom we have extensive identifying information, we analyze mortality gradients using four separate sources of mortality data. We find that these sources often disagree about which of our panels have died, and also about overall mortality rates. However, our assessments of mortality gradients (i.e., by sex, race/ethnicity, education) are similar regardless of sources of mortality data.

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Presented in Session 46: Health Behaviors, Health, and Mortality