Trends in Modal Length of Life by Occupational Class in Finland, 1971-2010

Viorela Diaconu , Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Alyson A. Van Raalte, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)
Pekka Martikainen, University of Helsinki

Few studies have used the modal length of life, M, to monitor socioeconomic differences among the elderly and none have focused on how these disparities evolved over time. This paper aims to: (1) analyse long-term trends in mortality inequality at older ages by occupation in Finland since the 1970s using M and (2) compare patterns and differentials in M-trends by occupational class with those of conditional life expectancy at 50, 65, and 75. Using observed death counts and population exposure by single year of age, calendar year, occupational status, and sex in Finland from 1971 to 2010, we calculate M and conditional life expectancies from occupation-specific smooth P-spline density functions. Our results showed that the modal length of life increased for all occupational classes and for both sexes throughout the 1971-2010 period. Occupational disparities in M narrowed over time, following greater survival improvements among the elderly in lower than upper classes. Patterns and differentials in M by occupational status were noticeably different from those in conditional life expectancy, which exhibited an increase in mortality disparities. Our findings revealed that, unlike conditional life expectancies at older ages, M is a stable measure of old-age survival as it is not affected by compositional changes and by different age patterns of adult mortality/selection.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session Ageing, Health and Mortality