Comparing the Efficiency of Mortality Changes between Countries: An Evaluation of Past and Forecast Levels in Advanced Economies
James E Oeppen, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
The impact of an age-specific mortality change on life expectancy depends both on its quantity, and its “efficiency” – whether it occurs in an age-group that matters. Since 1840, some countries have stayed close to the advancing linear frontier for life expectancy. This implies that they have efficiently shifted the focus of mortality change from the young, through adults, to the elderly. This paper decomposes annual changes in life expectancy at birth for advanced economies into two components: quantity, and efficiency as defined for a social planner. In the past 50 years, France, Japan and Switzerland have been efficient, suggesting a positive association between the quantity and efficiency of mortality change. The United States has made both smaller and less efficient changes. Efficiency is ignored by forecasting methods. Applying the decomposition to a European Union set of mortality projections reveals an assumption of almost total collapse of efficiency for all countries by 2050.