ABSTRACT

Although it is very difficult to determine the causes of death, the fact of death itself is a sufficiently clearcut and memorable event that deaths can be tabulated with some confidence. Indeed, it is generally more difficult to count the living population who were at risk of death at the time than to count the deaths themselves. With allowance for these difficulties, it is possible to measure the probability of death in definable groups with some accuracy, even if the interpretation of those measures is problematic. This chapter is an account of that process, first establishing the conceptual framework of life-table analysis, discussing the ways in which human mortality varies in general among populations, then looking at data from the !Kung, to place the !Kung experience in comparative perspective.