This paper describes a method of estimating life expectancy at birth on the basis of crude vital rates. The method is derived from stable population theory and it furnishes good estimates insofar as the current crude vital rates of a population are close to its intrinsic rates. This condition is generally met in closed populations which have not experienced sharp movements in fertility. The method is useful for estimating life expectancy in developing nations with good sample registration systems but for which information on age is of poor quality. It is also useful for estimating the movement of life expectancy in certain European nations in the period prior to regular census taking. There are a number of nations and regions in Europe for which long series of birth and death rates are available but for which census age counts are widely spaced.

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