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Estimating infant mortality by ethnicity – New methods for dealing with inconsistent ethnic reporting and small numbers

Statistics New Zealand Working Paper No 17–01

John Bryant and Anne Howard

Abstract

When estimating infant mortality rates for ethnic groups in New Zealand we need to allow for the fact that (i) people often report different ethnicities on birth registrations and death registrations, and (ii) counts of infant deaths are small and therefore subject to substantial random variation. We need methods that give the best estimates possible, but that also quantify the remaining uncertainties.

We address the problem of inconsistent reporting by linking death records to birth records and dealing with unlinked records through a technique called multiple imputation. We address the problem of small counts by fitting Bayesian hierarchical models, which smooth through the random variation.

Depending on which measures are used, inconsistent reporting of ethnicity can have a major effect on estimated mortality rates. Despite considerable uncertainty, there are large differences in infant mortality rates across ethnic groups.

Although further work is required to test the robustness of the methods, and to extend them to more than two ethnicities, we think they could potentially be used to produce series of infant mortality rates by ethnic group.

Key words

infant mortality, ethnicity, linked data, multiple imputation, Bayesian hierarchical models, New Zealand

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their careful comments on the paper, which have led to numerous improvements.

To read the paper, download or print the PDF from the 'Available files' box. If you have problems viewing the file, see Opening files and PDFs.

Citation

Bryant, J, & Howard, A (2017). Estimating infant mortality by ethnicity: New methods for dealing with inconsistent ethnic reporting and small numbers. Working Paper No 17-01. Retrieved from www.stats.govt.nz.

ISBN 978-1-98-852808-3 (online)
ISSN 1179-934X (online)

Published 14 June 2017

Note: When this paper was first published on 14 June, the 2nd and 3rd column headings in table 6 were above the wrong data. We corrected the headings on 15 June.

 We apologise for any inconvenience.

 

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