When do parents bury a child? Uncertainty of offspring loss across the demographic transition

Diego Alburez-Gutierrez
Ugofilippo Basellini, Max Planck Institute for demographic Research
Emilio Zagheni, Max Planck Institute for demographic Research

Mortality decline in the context of the Demographic Transition (DT) is often portrayed as the harbinger of a progressively ‘ordered’ world in which deaths become more predictable. In this narrative, parents adjust their fertility because they are increasingly certain that their offspring will survive childhood. Here, we evaluate whether the demographic changes that characterise the DT (longer lifespans and lower fertility) do indeed make offspring loss more predictable for parents. For this, we document the development of the maternal age at offspring loss around the world in terms of its central value and variability. We find that the changes implied by the DT lead to offspring loss becoming more unpredictable for parents in the short term. Our findings have profound implications for population theory and for policy makers, especially in light of the radical demographic changes projected for the Global South.

Keywords: Mortality, Family demography, Methodology, Population projections, forecasts, and estimations

See paper.

  Presented in Session 26. Infant and Child Mortality