This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Will You Still be Alive for Your 50th HS Reunion?

My wife and I were high school sweethearts and our 50th high school reunion is coming up this year. A member of the reunion committee just sent us a sobering list of classmates who had died since we all graduated from high school and our first reaction was shock at the number--43 out of a graduating class of 412--10 percent. Being a demographer, I then checked the life tables to see what we should have expected. The latest single-year-of-age life tables for the US are available from the National Center for Health Statistics of the US Centers for Disease Control. These data refer to 2007 and so the numbers will be very conservative because my classmates and I were born into a world with a lower life expectancy (71 years at birth) than prevailed in 2007 (81 years at birth). Our high school was predominantly white, so I have used the life tables for that group. It turns out that a white male graduating from high school in 1962 had a 21 percent chance of dying before that 50th reunion, while for females it was a 13 percent chance. Among our classmates, 12 percent of females have thus far died and that number is not statistically significant different from the expected value of 13 percent. However, among males, only 9 percent have thus far died (although one of them was murdered in a very high profile case), and that is statistically significant lower than expected. Of course, it may well be that more males have died and we just don't know about them--are males more likely to "disappear" from view than females? Perhaps. In all events, it was sobering to realize that the initial number of dead classmates was not higher than we should have expected.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this information. My 50th is coming up next fall (class or '64) and I, too, was curious after reading all the "In Memoriams." Of 600 students, we know of 82 deaths, but many classmates are unaccounted for. Like yours, our class was middle class and totally white. We only lost 3 to Viet Nam.

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    1. I also graduated in 1964. 50 yr reunion this fall of 600 students 67 deaths and add 5 from Viet Nam not worth the lives. I was shocked looking at those 18yr old faces and realizing they were gone. Though is seems to be the average.

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  2. Similar comment and thanks. We lost about 10% of our class of '64. One non-white; middle class; possibly 1 death to war; heavy college attendance; 20% have whereabouts unconfirmed (nearly all assumed alive); we'd been concerned as so many had died of cancer (with several in remission)

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  3. It is sure difficult to obtain HS information . i thought it would be easy on the internet. information such as,,deaths , divorced,whos in prison, famous classmates etc..

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    1. Yes, I think this information is pretty hard to reconstruct. You really need to have someone keep track of people all along, from the moment of high school graduation.

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  4. This doesn't surprise me, slightly over 10% of our class has passed away, we just finished our 50-year reunion.

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