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Problems in Measuring Ethnic Differences in Mortality in Northern China

Publication Abstract

Anderson, Barbara A., and Brian D. Silver. "Problems in Measuring Ethnic Differences in Mortality in Northern China." PSC Research Report No. 93-277. April 1993.

This paper examines mortality by ethnic group for Neimenggu and Xinjiang. The analysis is based on individual-level data from the 1990 Chinese Census. Explicit comparisons are made between Mongols and Han in Neimenggu and between Uighurs and Han in Xinjiang. As a preliminary step toward the study of differences in demographic behavior by ethnic group, it is important to examine the accuracy of the data.

A pattern of severe age heaping is found for the population of Xinjiang. The extent of age heaping is much greater for Uighurs than for Han. However, data for Han who have little or no education show a noticeable amount of age heaping.

Mongols and Han have similar reported mortality levels in Neimenggu, and except at very old ages, the mortality data for Neimenggu appear to be plausible. In Xinjiang, Uighurs and Han show a mortality crossover: Uighurs exhibit higher reported mortality rates than Han at younger ages and lower reported mortality rates than Han at older ages. This is similar to the pattern that has been found among traditionally Moslem groups in Soviet Central Asia. It seems that substantial overstatement of age for those alive at the time of the census as well as overstatement of age of those who died contributes to artificially low reported mortality at older ages.

The authors propose further study of the causes of this pattern in order to assess the contribution of underregistration and age misreporting to error in mortality data. Once the process that causes this error is more fully understood, measures can be taken to improve data quality. Then it will be possible to investigate the role of factors such as ethnic group membership, education, and health status in the actual risks of dying.

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