University of Chicago


Sociology 219/319
Biodemography of Human Mortality and Longevity

Spring 2001
Wednesday, 3:00-5:50
Cobb Lecture Hall, 5811-27 S. Ellis Ave. Room 214

Dr. Leonid A. Gavrilov, Ph.D. (concepts and theories in biodemography)
Dr. Natalia S. Gavrilova, Ph.D. (methods of data analysis in biodemography)
Center on Aging, NORC, 1155 East 60th Street, Room 382
Telephone: 256-6359

Course Description:   This course is a broad overview of biodemographic ideas, models, methods, and findings regarding human aging, mortality, and longevity.  Topics include the construction and analysis of life tables, mortality laws, gender differences in life span, the limits to human longevity, mathematical theories of human aging and mortality, genetics and evolution of human life span, similarities and differences between human and animal mortality patterns.  The course is intended to provide students with general understanding of the driving forces behind mortality trends and differences.

Textbook: The course largely follows the following book:

Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S. The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach, NY: Harwood Academic Publisher, 1991, 385p.
Selected chapters will be assigned each week. The text of updated chapters of the book will be disseminated prior to each lecture.

Additional reading on biodemography includes:

1. Biodemographic Perspectives on Human Longevity. Population, Special Issue. 2001, vol.13-1.

2. Sex and Longevity. J.-M.Robine, T.B.L.Kirkwood, M.Allard (eds). Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2000.

3. Wachter K.W., Finch C.E. Between Zeus and the Salmon. The Biodemography of Longevity. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1997.
Available at:

Methods of mortality analysis in demography are described in the following publications:

1. Preston, S.H., Heuveline P., Guillot M. 2001. Demography. Blackwell Publishers.

2. Bogue, D.J., Arriaga E.E., Anderton, D.L. 1993. Readings in population research methodology. Vol.2. Chicago: Published for the United Nations Population Fund by Social Development Center. (available at the NORC library, [Reg. HB850.R395]).

Additional recommended reading will be provided before the each lecture. Some of the recommended articles could be found at our website:

Course Grading:
The course grade will be based on one mid-term problem set (40%) and one 3-5 page written report (60%) on assigned human mortality/longevity topic.

Course Schedule:

Lecture #1

Lecture #2

Lecture #3

Lecture #4

Additional reading:
Gavrilov L.A., Gavrilova N.S.
Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine, 1999, 2(4): 365-366.

Lecture #5

Lecture #6

Lecture #7

Lecture #8

Lecture #9

Lecture #10