High variability in recorded vital events creates serious problems for small-area mortality estimation by age and sex. Many existing approaches to fitting local mortality schedules, including those most often used in Brazil, estimate rates by making rigid mathematical assumptions about local age patterns. Such methods assume that all areas within a larger area (for example, microregions within a mesoregion) have identically-shaped log mortality schedules by age. We propose a more flexible statistical estimation method that combines Poisson regression with the TOPALS relational model (DE BEER, 2012). We use the new method to estimate age-specific mortality rates in Brazilian small areas (states, mesoregions, microregions, and municipalities) in 2010. Results for Minas Gerais show notable differences in the age patterns of mortality between adjacent small areas, demonstrating the advantages of using a flexible functional form in regression models.
Mortality; Small areas; TOPALS method; Poisson regression