3 April 2001
Subject: Life and death
Dear Ms Bonilla-Chacin
I am very interested in reading your paper "Life and Death among the Poorest" after seeing a table from it in "The Evolution of Thinking About Poverty" by Ravi Kanbur and Lyn Squire. I wonder if I could get hold of a copy of the paper or the survey data.
I am working on a way of taking mortality into account when measuring welfare outcomes for a population over time. I was very pleased to see your table show what seems intuitively right but not often acknowledged - the bottom decile do far worse than the next decile. The implications seem to me rather important.
Data such as yours suggest to me that a cohort study is not needed to get a fairly clear picture of welfare outcomes prior to death (for example, income levels). The data also mean that the population of the bottom decile changes very substantially over time. Those who died (mostly children with no income) may be replaced by people from the next decile up. To me, no outcome measure should look better as a result of higher numbers of deaths. Your data suggest that this effect may be large.
Thank you very much.