Socio-economic differences in mortality have been known to exist for a long time. The poor usually die young. The implications of this fact for the fairness of pension reforms, public health and social policy are still not sufficiently recognized in the public debate. Despite its importance, several European countries cannot provide official data on mortality by socio-economic status. The research evidence which is available is not easily comparable between countries because of technical data problems.
A feasibility study by Statistics Austria in the FACTAGE project demonstrates that this gap can be closed by better use of harmonized longitudinal microdata from EU-SILC (Community Statistics on Income and Living Conditions). By its design, EU-SILC measures socio-economic inequality, and the assessment shows that comparative mortality estimation from EU-SILC longitudinal data is technically possible.
Improvement of the comparative knowledge base on socio-economic excess mortality through EU-SILC does require however that vital status is measured with good quality by Member States. Many countries have capacities in linking survey data with national mortality registers, and this may be used to extend the value of EU-SILC with only little additional effort. Additionally, Eurostat may consider relaxing some restrictions in the User Database.
The FACTAGE method which is presented in this policy brief may serve as a minimum standard for all countries which cannot provide national figures on the subject and as an important tool for cross-national comparisons.