A range of indirect techniques has been developed for mortality estimation in societies lacking adequate vital registration records. Information on orphanhood has been widely used as an estimator of adult mortality, with generally plausible results. Doubts have remained, however, about potential biases, and the method is less satisfactory for the estimation of male mortality. Information on widowhood, or more strictly the survival of first spouse, has several possible advantages over information on orphanhood. Model first marriage functions and model life tables are used to calculate proportions widowed of first spouse, for both females and males, by marital duration and by age. These proportions widowed are then related to life table survivorship probabilities to provide weighting factors for the conversion of observed proportions widowed into estimates of survivorship probabilities. The application of the method is illustrated with data collected by the 1974 post-enumeration survey of Bangladesh, with apparently encouraging results.
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