Changes in the Age Distribution of Mortality over the Twentieth Century

David M. Cutler and Ellen Meara

in Perspectives on the Economics of Aging

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2004 | ISBN: 9780226903057
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226903286 | DOI:
Changes in the Age Distribution of Mortality over the Twentieth Century

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Mortality rates declined extremely rapidly in the United States over the twentieth century, as they did in all developed countries. This change has been accompanied by several important epidemiological trends. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, infectious diseases were the leading cause of death. This chapter does not quantify the role of medicine, income, social programs, and other factors in improved mortality in the last half century, but shows examples where each is important as a first step in this research process. It first presents the basic facts about changes in the age distribution of mortality change and life expectancy improvements, highlighting the growing role of mortality reductions among the elderly. It then examines why this trend has occurred, discussing in particular the epidemiology of mortality reduction at different points in time and for different causes.

Keywords: mortality; United States; epidemiology; infectious diseases; life expectancy; elderly

Chapter.  7863 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economics

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