Can we estimate mass mortality using total population estimates?

Vol 10, 2022 - 148028
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Growth rate discontinuity modelling (GRDM) is an understudied technique for estimating the size of population shocks in low-data contexts. It projects exponentially within the intercensal interval containing a shock, allowing a one-time projection discontinuity that it attributes to the demographic impact, usually the death toll, of that shock. I provide the first review of GRDM’s assumptions and previous uses. I also attempt to externally validate the method against independently well-characterised estimates of the death toll of the 1918–19 influenza pandemic. I find that GRDM requires high precision in its inputs to an extent rarely possible in historical and low-data contexts, especially at subnational levels. The areas of study in which GRDM’s previous results have been very influential, namely the 1830s Trail of Tears, the 1864-70 Paraguayan War, the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, and the 1965-66 mass killings in Java, should reconsider the method’s contributions to their fields.

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Instituciones
  • 1 University of Oxford
Eje Temático
  • 3.4 Demografía Histórica e Historia de la Población – general
Palabras Clave
historical demography
indirect estimation
mortality
1918 influenza pandemic
Paraguayan War