Multiple-Decrement Life Tables

Course Content

Multiple-Decrement Life Tables is a free, online course for students of population research. It was developed by Dr. Chirayath Suchindran as part of the Distance Advancement of Population Research (DAPR) project.

Dr. Suchindran is a fellow at the Carolina Population Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


This course will introduce the concepts of multiple-decrement life tables. The course has three objectives:

  • Explain the difference between an ordinary life table and a multiple-decrement life table and introduce various summary measures from a multiple-decrement life table.
  • Provide information on data required to construct a multiple-decrement life table and teach computational aspects of the life table construction and corresponding summary measures.
  • Introduce the notion of cause elimination life tables and the concept of gain in expectation of life when a particular cause of death is eliminated.


This course assumes you already understand the basic concepts of ordinary life tables. These concepts are reviewed in Lesson 3 of this course. If you desire a more thorough treatment of ordinary life tables, we recommend Population Analysis for Planners which, like this course, was developed as part of the DAPR project.

Computational Tools

Because of the large number of calculations involved, use of a spreadsheet is required. To complete the exercises, you will download small datasets to your hard drive and work with them using the spreadsheet program on your computer. These datasets will be available in two formats: Microsoft Excel files and comma-delimited text (CSV) files.

Unless you are already comfortable with a different spreadsheet program, we recommend Microsoft's Excel program. 

Supplemental Readings (not required)

Namboodiri, N.K., and C.M. Suchindran (1987). Life Table Techniques and Their Applications. Orlando, Florida: Academic Press. Chapters 6 and 9.

Shryock, H.S., and J.S. Seigel (1976). The Methods and Materials of Demography (condensed edition by E.G. Stockwell). New York: Academic Press. Chapter 15.

Keyfitz, N. (1968). Introduction to Mathematics of Population. Chicago: Addison Press.

Chiang, C.L. (1973). Introduction to the Life Table. New York: Kreiger.

Preston, S.H., P. Heuveline, and M. Guillot (2001). Demography: Measuring and Modeling Population Processes. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers.

Schoen, R. (1988). Modeling Multi-group Populations. New York, NY: Plenum Press.