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There’s death and then there’s death

Two GeoFRED maps of premature death rates

FRED and, by extension, GeoFRED have two sets of county-level statistics on premature deaths: the raw measure shown in the map above and the age-adjusted measure shown in the map below. What’s the difference?

First, we need to define premature death. Statistically, for our purposes here, it’s a death occurring before age 75, which is roughly the life expectancy at birth for the average U.S. resident. However, the data shown in the top map do not take into account the age of the person; it is simply the overall rate for all premature deaths. This makes it more difficult to compare counties because not all have the same age distribution for their population. A 10-year-old clearly has a different likelihood of dying than a 74-year-old. The second measure adjusts for that. The age adjustment involves calculating what the death rate would be in the long run if the age-specific death rates would prevail for the existing age distribution of the population. And after comparing the two maps, this adjustment appears to matter.

How these maps were created: Simply go to GeoFRED and browse through the county-level data maps.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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