Indirect estimation of infant mortality in small areas*

Abstract The Brass-type indirect methods of early-age mortality estimation have been used for more than four decades, providing very robust estimates for countries without reliable vital registration systems. However, when estimation areas become smaller, the number of dead children could be very small, especially among those born to young women, who provide essential information to estimate recent mortality. In these cases, estimates could be affected by random errors and unexpected annual fluctuations. At the same time, although it is very unlikely that demographic trends in a small area would follow patterns very different from those prevailing in the broader environment they belong to, it is possible that some local events may become relevant to small areas, causing some deviations from the assumptions that may hold true to the larger area. The objective of this paper is to propose an adaptation of the indirect estimation approach, which would allow obtaining infant and child mortality estimates for small areas. As such, this proposal belongs to the realm of indirect estimation methods, sharing the limitations and advantages that characterize this type of estimation procedures. The method is illustrated with data from the 2014 Population and Housing Census of Myanmar. The results indicate that the method proposed here provides reliable and consistent infant mortality estimates, compared to the original Brass’ method, even in very small areas.