Assessment of the robustness of recent births in estimating infant mortality using multi-country Demographic Health Survey data

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This dissertation investigates the robustness of recent births in estimating infant mortality rates from the proportion of deaths observed among births reported in a 24month period. The Blacker Brass technique is applied to all births reported in the 24month period and to most recent births in the 24 month period. The study uses birth history data from 76 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 16 countries across the developing world between 1986 and 2011. All births (and the deaths of those births) occurring in five 2-year periods before each survey were extracted to obtain five estimates of infant mortality using the Blacker-Brass and direct estimation methods from each dataset. This allows trends in infant mortality for the 10-year period before the survey to be compared and relative errors to be calculated. The results showed a decline in infant mortality in most datasets and are consistent with the United Nations and the World Health Organisation 2013 estimates. The relative errors did not indicate any systematic bias of the Blacker-Brass method applied to all births; however, further investigations showed that the method underestimated infant mortality in the period closest to the survey date in most datasets. Furthermore, the relative errors were positively correlated with the directly estimated level of infant mortality. There were, however, no significant differences in the relative errors across countries.

Includes bibliographical references.