Data from the Retrospective Demographic Survey of Panama offer a unique opportunity to test a wide range of methods for estimating indirectly basic demographic parameters from inaccurate and incomplete data. Our primary emphasis is to evaluate methods for estimating adult mortality from information on widowhood and orphanhood, though estimates of childhood mortality obtained from information on sibling and child survivorship are assessed as well. The results for most of the estimating procedures are consistent; this finding is encouraging because it lends support to the hypothesis that the techniques can provide good estimates of mortality. Methods which produce results which are inconsistent provide valuable lessons. In particular, methods for providing unconditional estimates of values of l x for adults by combining directly information on childhood mortality and adult mortality are shown to produce estimates which predominantly reflect the level of childhood mortality employed. Furthermore, within-method consistency of estimates appears to be a very poor indicator of reliable performance of the estimating technique or quality of data, since most methods yielded estimates which were internally consistent, though estimates made by different methods could differ considerably. In summary, the analysis indicates a birth rate of around 35 per thousand, a death rate of around 7.5 per thousand, a total fertility ratio of about 4.8, and expectations of life at birth of approximately 59 and 64 years for men and women respectively.
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